It’s been so long since I published my Part One: Birmingham Alabama—In Alden Pebble Grain that you might want to go back and read it first.
Part Two: Birmingham Alabama—In Alden Pebble Grain
Then I rounded the corner…
But before I begin this final round, I want to offer this quote from TCD’s original email regarding Richards of Mountain Brook…"Richards" took a high school freshman to his Dad's world & instantly verified it was where you wanted to be even if it had not occurred to you before".
“…instantly verified it was where you wanted to be even if it had not occurred to you before…” That’s a strong statement right there. Stronger than new rope. Strong in some kind of teenage existentially ethereal, one hundred percent cotton kinda way. Shut up.
But TCD, in response to part-one of this story emailed me and reminded me that any trip to Richards usually included a stop off at the drug store that’s anchored this little mercantile patch since 1928. AS TCD described this place, it occurred to me that Gilchrist Drug is the J&J Drugs of my hometown. Butcept like everything in Florence S.C. versus anywhere else ('cept maybe Tabor City N.C.), my hometown version is a redneck-y, inelegant comparator.
At least 30% of my caloric intake was courtesy of the J&J lunch counter during my days working at the haberdashery just opposite the J&J. I would go over to the J&J on some Saturday mornings before we opened the store, still capable of blowing a DUI I’m certain. Bill Tassios would patch me up with the same unguent, my Saturday morning “rescue usual” of two ham biscuits and a cup of coffee. I’d grab some breath mints and toss it all back before cinching up my four-in-hand and easing into my Saturday mercantile duties. Unfortunately, the photo above reveals what the J&J storefront looks like these days. Alas.
I’d say that for the first hour or two my internal dialogue was really a flurry of foxhole prayers to Jesus. “Lord, if you’ll make this hangover go away I’ll never get smashed on a Friday night again”. But by eleven o’clock I’d be feeling better thanks to my J&J fix and on the phone to my various cohorts, sorting out the Saturday night plan.
Oops, I digressed again. So TCD told me that for him, the Gilchrist Pimiento Cheese (yes, you Yankees, Pimiento Cheese is capitalized. It’s a Southern thang that I’m not going to take time to ‘splain to you because you’ll never get it. Suffice it to say that the cheese and the assemblage of it on two pieces of toasted bread is sacred.) sandwich and a fresh squeezed right then and there glass of their limeade was his standing order.
Here’s a quote from this article that best sums up why TCD made sure I understood the significance of the Gilchrist anchor… “Walk into Gilchrist, and you’re likely to see tables of teenagers and college kids, mothers and daughters, grandparents and great-grandparents — most of whom have been coming here all of their lives. Old snapshots of long-time customers fill a display case. “That’s the neatest thing about this place, is seeing somebody in their 70s come in here and talk about how they used to sit at that very same stool,” (current owner) Rosato says. “They grow up here in this community, and they grow up going to Gilchrist.””
|Photo from Taste of the South Magazine|
Typical of my A.D.D. impertinent country a_s, I stood right beside this hallowed sanctum sanctorum of samiches and such and didn’t have a clue of its existence. Otherwise, I’d a had a little bite of something to complement the sartorial rarefied air that I’d just finished breathing two doors down.
So I’d finished my photo taking reminiscent obligations to TCD and was headed back to the car.
Then I rounded the corner and noticed a little haberdashery called Harrison Ltd. My painfully nostalgic self has long since resigned to the reality of TinTin’s “Not as good as it once was, better than it will be” by-line. But every town used to have a locally owned haberdashery and Harrison Ltd. is doing a damn fine job of campaigning the Richard’s legacy.
A faint smell of leather hit me when I walked in. Sort of a shoe repair shop olfactory déjà vu. The source was a gaggle of Alden shoe boxes above my immediate right that let me know I wasn’t in some kind of twee little attenuated J. Crew skinny jeans atelier. Shut up.
While this little oasis is trad out the as_; rest assured that Harrison Ltd. ain’t no maudlin throwback to a time now irrelevant. There’s a little bit of Mashburn folded into a good bit of your daddy’s favorite old-time tradberdashery.
What Harrison Ltd. seems to do so well is keep just enough of the immutable 3-Button patina spread ‘round ever so lightly while offering fresh takes on it all. And I don’t know how to write this in a way that you’ll understand what I’m trying to say but here goes…What Harrison Ltd. does is something more nuanced than that worn-ass-out hackneyed standard of “we take the classics and reinterpret them”. A monkey could do that. Trust me; I was a monkey at one time. Shut up.
So I’m standing there, doing anything to keep from having to return from my errand running tasks and this pebble grain thing gobsmacked me from the get-go. I ask for no sympathy when I say that there’s never been a time in my life when I was less able to buy anything nonessential. But I had some some cravings in this joint that warranted the ultimate sale of a few caricatures and antique toy soldiers. I think it came out of me before I even knew that I’d asked it. And the answer was yes, my size in these pebble graingers just happened to be on hand.
I love my versatile penny loafers but the Alden tassel mama is a step-up in the “if you could only have one shoe what would it be?” pantheon. Yep. Weejuns are kinda like the Canterbury Shop to the Alden tassel’s Richard’s of Mountain Brook. And of course since I’ve never owned an Alden tassel loafer in my life, I figured it was my time.
Granted I shoulda paid the freight for the shoes and cut outta there faster than a set of rims at a Puff Daddy concert butcept I didn’t. They had some belts and of course since I’ve never owned a belt, I figured it was my time. The Wiley Brothers Hoof Pick contrivances and even my Sid Mashburn oyster shell buckled belt seemed clunky and ham fisted compared to this gem.
Matte alligator. I’d never had anything reptilian other than the shiny glazed stuff. So my first thought was whether or not it was the real thing or one of those hydraulic ersatz stamped-stomped cowhide models. My first car, the MG Midget, was worth about five hundred and fifty bucks when I said goodbye to it. So the indicator of reptilian authenticity was an MSRP that was perilously close to the goodbye value of my Midget.
Fake it till you make it is remains part of my oeuvre but I can’t abide fake gator grained leather. The gator grain stamping process reminds me of what has to be the high-heat, hydraulic event that creates the undulating rib impressions on a McRib. As a Southerner and hogavore, I believe the McRib to be a multipronged insult to a pig.
Painted on grill marks and rib impressions you are supposed to bite-through. Corrugated meat. Damn. We gnaw ribs where I’m from. We don’t bite through them. Ok, so I had to sell more toy soldiers.
At this point I figured that a knit tie to round my visit wouldn’t hurt. Most knit ties are too skinny and frail looking for me. But like everything else in this little oasis, I could have taken one of everything. And of course since I've never owned a tie, I figured one of these knit babies should be my first.
|Photo from Robert Talbott|
Scott Pyburn is the swizzle stick that stirs this trad cocktail. And if I lived in Birmingham, he and I would continue to visit and ideate on who could make me a pair of alligator tassel loafers; one hundred percent faithful to the Alden classic on the Aberdeen last.
Oh, and if you spend an amount equal to the value of your first car, Scott will give you a t-shirt and baseball cap. And since I've never...