Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sunday in Georgetown: Part One

I’m sure many of you would love to face a day with literally nothing on the mandatory to-do list or the parental carpool transport docket. I get that and believe me, as LFG enters week-two of her Ponte Vedra paradise experience, I’d rather have had an LFG commitment last Sunday. I’m flying down next week to procure my raison d’etre but Sunday last found me schedule free. And obviously, Sunday saw me free of any desire to step up my sartorial game to anything beyond trad-homeless.
So I went over to Georgetown. Surely my foray into the little hamlet could have been trumped by more productive undertakings like re-caulking the bathroom, finishing the chair rail and crown moulding projects that I began at ManCaveMinimus eight years ago. Shut up. Home projects, like my post-divorce romantic efforts, begin with energetic and aspirational what-ifs and generally, after six months, trail off into benign whatevers. I’ve already told you to shut up.
My primary reason for heading into Georgetown was to reconnoiter the establishment of Sterling and Burke Ltd. I was surprised actually, that such a purveyor hadn't hit my radar screen already. But the catalyst for visiting Sterling and Burke was a gift I received from them last week. Many, many of you have sent me very thoughtful gifts from time to time. And I’m proud to say that all of them have been gifts of kindness and friendship, not some thinly disguised come-on to shill a product. As a matter of fact, my blog is so inconsistent, so thematically undulating and Ritalin-be-damned random, that I have a couple of luxury goods creators who pay me a stipend to NOT use or mention their product. Surprise, I digress.
I received a parcel, courtesy of Sterling and Burke, from my buddy S.F. who’s now in Pakistan. He’s a classic, man-in-full kind of fella…Naval Reserve Officer…married to the same woman for years…father of two boys…sportsman who’d make Tone, my Main Line Sportsman, take him in as blood kin from the get-go. He’s so classic that he makes J.Press look edgy. A reader of Flashman, dabbler in antique toy soldiers, subscriber to The Field, historic preservationist in his community, caricature collector and a lover of food that will kill you if eaten regularly. My kinda guy.

Long story longer…I’d never met S.F. ‘till he emailed me and told me that he’d be billeted in Old Town while doing some pre-Pakistan required work at the Pentagon. “Would I like to have a meal?”  Does ten pounds of flour make a big-ass biscuit? Well of course I would. Presumptuous of me I know, but I’d venture that most of the people from the blogosphere whom I’ve met up with for drinks and/or dinner would agree that the proverbial good time was had by all. I don’t as a routine matter; catch my damn clothes on fire like I did with Main Line Sportsman. S.F.’s Pakistan deployment kept getting delayed so we kept eating and drinking and sharing stories and visiting my buddy’s vintage toy soldier shop on Capitol Hill and eating and drinking and talking about cars and women and clothes and such. And I suppose that S.F. figured that our grumpy middle-age in denial old men sorties warranted a thank you gift…from Sterling and Burke. The leather journal personifies precisely the kind of gentleman S.F. manifests.
I should'a dressed better. Walking into (after ringing the buzzer) Sterling and Burke becomes a visual and olfactory wafting of St. James Street. The old world attention to detail and quality, coupled with breadth and depth of inventory makes me worry about their sustainability. Kinda the same way I feel about the sartorial magazine The Rake. The general quality and uncompromising commitment to it is so good that it won’t last. Do enough people care about how special these things are to patronize them enough? I sure hope so.
The nice lady at Sterling and Burke was as impressed with S.F. as I’d been and as soon as I mentioned the journal gift, she lit up. When was the last time you bantered with someone in a retail establishment who genuinely wanted to talk about their wares and their customers with you? I suppose it helped that S.F. commissioned some custom travel case, now en route to Pakistan where he’ll be for the next year.
Sterling and Burke have depth of inventory to satisfy any impulse, spur of the moment desire but a big part of their business is special order and custom goods. Nice Lady, after I shared with her the tragic story of my lost Brigg umbrella, told me about a customer who’s bespoken a dozen or so umbrellas over the last many years. Black silk outer canopy and custom color silk inner canopy (I didn’t know Brigg did this) to match the color of his next vintage car acquisition. She appreciated my assertion that raindrops don’t sound the same when landing on a nylon canopy and since I choose not to afford the same silk canopy I had on my first Brigg, I’ll just, for now, do without.
Depth of inventory and a Cape Buffalo on the wall. Courtesy of a part time employee whose grandfather shot the thing. Folks, this is one of the most deadly animals on the planet. Worry not about crocodiles and tigers any more than you should concern yourself with this beast. Centuries of effort, literally, hasn't bred-out of this esteemed member of the Big Five, a desire to kill you.
Then we talked leather goods. I showed her my beat-to-death card case that I've carried for twenty years. An inexpensive vessel but unique in dimension and one that I've never been able to replace. I've tried similar stand-ins and once loaded with my stuff, they don’t feel/fit right. I've had this card case in my back pocket amidst every defining moment and inflection point I've experienced in the last twenty years. I told Nice Lady so. And she got it.
This cheapie accompanied me to a career resignation, a business start-up, first dates and last ones, meeting LFG’s mom and later, proposing marriage. It sat with me during breakfast when I asked my future father-in-law for his only daughter’s hand and it was astride my right flank when I said “I do”. It lurked back there during every trip to the Reproductive Endocrinologist as we focused on having a baby. This now gnarly cowhide enclosure accompanied me to the labor and delivery realm of Sibley Hospital and the joyous arrival of LFG. It's carried two caskets with me. Same said case sat through all of the toxicity involved in even the most benign no-fault divorce proceedings. I know it was rooting for me when I was asked, two Februaries ago, to "step out of the car please". And surely it was equally elated to not be headed to the drunk tank. And other sorties it’s accompanied me on post marriage can’t be shared here in toto.
Ok, so I attach memories and ideas to things. What’s your effing point? After sharing none of the above with Nice Lady; other than the fact that I couldn’t find a replacement, she pulled out a manila file folder and began sketching my card case. Measuring the precise dimensions of it, she then let me know that in a few months, she’d be in touch. Stay tuned.
The other good news is that my leather journal from Sterling and Burke, courtesy of S.F. isn’t so expensive that I can’t use it for my pedestrian work notes and then not be able to replace it once full. It’s affordable and I’ll be happy to have this as my go-to journal when in client meetings and amidst discovery and to-do list creation.And maybe, just maybe, I’ll choose to swing a silk canopied Brigg at some point.
Onward. Seeking tanned ankles but currently still pasty…still no reason not to be shod in a kick-ass pair of shell cordovan Venetians.



Suburban Princess said...

I have a Waterman pen I feel the exact same way about. I have signed every important document with it from credit card purchases to my son's birth record and everything in between. I find my signature isnt quite the same without it!

I hope nice lady can create something you like!

NCJack said...

Normally, I'm of the school "If I'm wearing a wallet, I'm dressed well enough to come into your store", but for that place, well, long pants, socks, shell cordovans, and definitely no shirt logos. It may even qualify for cool weather only, so I don't die in my tweed.

ADG said...

Jackie O'North...that's exactly why I fear for their viability. The place is anything but snooty. However, it kinda begs a deportment that is evaporating fast.

Suburban...I think they will do a run of a dozen or so basic cowhide things. Nothing exotic...just durable. Like me.

LPC said...

Mother. Of. God. What is the archetypal story you're telling here. Very compelling. I've had too much Sauvignon Blanc and cognac to be able to analyze further. The cognac was artisanal. That does not seem to help.

Marianne said...

Your reference to the Big Five made me think of vacations at our house in South Africa which include the beach, game drives, etc. I am in Ponte Vedra for the next 2 weeks and cannot figure out how to fill the time in this "paradise" since it is so damned hot.

ADG said...

Marianne...yep, we are past what I call the "lovely months" in the South. July and August are tough.

LPC...Ahh...Cognac-distilled wine from such a precise locale in France. The distillation process is complex like me. And Cognac, unlike other brandies, is still processed in distillate "catch basins" that are really small. So the VSOP designation ain't marketing bullshit. Artisnal is appropriate.

I don't think the clarity of morning and coffee is gonna help you sort out my story any better.

Anonymous said...


Easy and Elegant Life said...

How have I missed that place? Has it been there long? If it makes it to August, I'll step across the threshold, with Mrs. E., eyes rolling, in tow.

David V said...

All I can say is that I wish you had a camera or a better camera phone.

I may replace wallets but I never throw them away.

Anonymous said...

"How have I missed that place?"

They even have a second location in Rockville! This place is a prize. Yes, I can find leathergoods all over the place, but then I'm tasked with the miserable search for one who practices the not-dying, but-dead art of embossing on leather. Been there, it's a lot of work. These folks have an embosser on staff, that seals it for me. I'm guessing local luminaries like, say, Ben Bradlee or Ambassador So and So, submit gift orders to this establishment for global recipients, imagine the number of swells in DC who know to submit their long and short term gift lists to this establishment. Staggers this peanut mind of mine.

Still in awe of your card-case-as-literary-device, sir. Masterful, as usual.

ADG said...

Flomotion...yep. The embossing is done locally.And yes, I assume they do a rather brisk corporate or local muckety-muck with money business. Card-case-as-literary-device...I'm running out of devices.

David V. ... the fuzzy pichers is part of my ... whatever.

Eleganto...same here. I'd like to think that I'm more on the ball re these things. I'll try to meet y'all for a drink if this time, you give me a little more than 15 minutes notice!

Donald said...

I bought a briefcase from these fine folks last year, using their website--super fast and polite service. You can't find merchandise like that here in St. Paul, MN.

Good luck,

Richard M said...

ADG: Visited yesterday; had a lovely chat with the lovely Alison, and my bride got some beautiful Penhaligon stuff, and I ordered a wallet for my Birthday (personalized for free).
Very posh indeed, but not at all snooty. I pray for their success. They will likely hold some events soon. A little gem amongst much surrounding retail dross. Brings out the Anglophile in one, to be sure. Smells great when you enter, as well.
A happy Fourth to all.