Town and Country

Sign of the Times

Saying goodbye to Annie Sparrow’s Tulip

February 5, 2009

I was truly sad to read an email from Annie Sparrow this week announcing that she would be closing Tulip.

I’ve been working near First and Seneca for nine years now, and Annie and Tulip have been there for seven. I remember when she opened because previously, there really hadn’t been much in the way of window shopping options in that neck of the woods. Tulip’s sweet windows and Annie’s sweeter presence inside the shop gave many of my days a little lift, and the store itself was always a sure bet for the softest jersey basics (I think I bought my first Clu piece there) and great, shapely statement pieces (like the Hanii Y dress in last spring’s fashion spread). I consider Annie a neighbor, and I hate to see her go.

But because I remember a time when the First and Seneca area didn’t have a really wonderful European-feeling shoe shop, a truly innovative menswear store, an ultra-glam yet pretty darn green co-ed clothier, and a bridal boutique sporting gowns and ready-to-wear by local designers, the news about this particular closure feels bigger, too.

I don’t want it to—I don’t want Tulip’s closing to be a sign of the times, but I can’t help but feel that it is. I’m bummed to see anyone with a solid business plan and a fair game close up shop, but it’s especially disheartening when the shop has a real history and place in the community.

And let’s just be frank: It’s heartbreaking to see the colossal failure of a few greedy minds destroy the hard work of so many.

You know what I keep thinking about? I keep thinking about Teri Garr. Remember 1983 and Mr. Mom? Such a recession movie. Michael Keaton’s character gets laid off so Garr’s goes back to work in an advertising agency. (Don’t forget that 25 years ago it was normal that one parent worked, one stayed at home.) One of her clients is Schooner Tuna — and please tell me I am not the only one who remembers all of this like it was yesterday, but their tagline was, “The tuna with a heart.” Anyway, Garr’s character wins at work by successfully pitching her client with a comeback campaign that went like this:

“Schooner Tuna sympathizes with those hit so hard by this trying economy. To help you, we are reducing the price of our tuna by 50 cents a can. When this crisis is over, we’ll go back to our regular prices. Until then, remember, we’re all in this together.”

Folks, shopkeepers all over town have effectively reduced the price of their tuna by 50 cents a can. You know this. No, they’re not being altruistic. (And neither was Schooner Tuna back in ‘83. We know this.) The sale sign above is the real sign of the times. And man do I cringe as I feel the patriotic tone of my voice coming down the pipeline — I’ve learned to question and appreciate my country in very, very equal measure — but I think we need to loosen our purse strings and do some shopping. We’re all in this together, and I don’t want to see shops like Tulip continue to disappear. Be thoughtful about what you buy. Think about local businesses and American industry and quality and craftsmanship and longevity and true style. But buy. If you can, and if and when it feels right.

Because really, couldn’t we invent our own stimulus plan? If every employed Seattleite spent 100 bucks a month for the next three months on something for their home, their children, their wardrobe, their loved ones, wouldn’t that stimulate something?

Before you cue the Schooner Tuna jingle, yes, Annie’s hosting quite a sale in her final days. I spied a couple of those great, complicated yet simple, crisp white Acne shirts, and some perfectly loose, open-shaped pieces by Humanoid, a Dutch line that I really love. Prices are criminally low, and the store still feels wonderfully sweet.

Go soon, and say your goodbyes.

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