Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: October 29, 2012

“Return to The Big Fancy” by Freeman Hall

“Return to The Big Fancy” by Freeman Hall

c.2012, Adams Media
$22.95 / $23.99 Canada
272 pages


The holidays are coming. That means you’ll need a little extra.

Extra time to go gift-shopping, for sure, and extra closet space in which to hide packages. More importantly, you’ll need extra money for all that buying, which means you’re looking for an extra job.

There are a lot of openings at the mall, but be careful what you ask for. According to Freeman Hall in his new book “Return to The Big Fancy,” that part-time gig you’ll grab might just be extra irritation.

Freeman Hall figured he’d done his time at The Big Fancy, an upscale department store chain with a Burbank location. Hall worked the “Handbag Jungle,” where he dealt with nasty “custys,” greedy co-workers, and a store manager he called Suzy Satan. He put up with them all while bringing home an insultingly small paycheck so, when he got the chance, he escaped to pursue his dream of being a screenwriter.

But screenwriting didn’t pay the bills. Working at The Big Fancy did. Shortly after leaving, it was back to Retail Hell for Hall.

The new department manager of Handbag (never “purse”) Jungle was a wonderful woman Hall calls Maude and, since she knew about his past at The Big Fancy, she was happy to hire him. As a former Handbag manager, Hall brought experience to the Jungle. He also brought back his best customers.

As for Hall, everything was familiar, and depressing from the start.

Forbidden to use an elevator or mall entrance, employees were forced to climb several flights of stairs to get to work. Every day began with ear-splitting announcements and admonishments over the PA system from Suzy Satan to rally (or annoy) the troops. Since The Big Fancy paid its sales associates in commissions, “sharking” (stealing customers) was common and destroyed any sense of teamwork. Rules were loose (unless you broke them) and commissions could be retroactively withdrawn, even years later. The pressure on managers and associates was intense. Adding to it was that customers were always right – even when they weren’t – and Discount Rats always got their way.

It was frustrating. It was irritating. And it might’ve meant a completely horrible year for Hall, if it wasn’t for The Big Fancy Christmas Miracle…

So you plan on picking up some hours at the mall this fall. You might want to pick up “Return to The Big Fancy” first, while there’s still time to run.

Author Freeman Hill is both profound and profane in this book (although not as much of the latter as he was in his first book). His observations and his propensity for nickname-giving are both hilarious, but such snarkiness isn’t all you’ll find here: there were a few genuinely wonderful moments at the BF, and Hall shares them, too.

While retail-working readers will surely identify with this book, I also think it’ll give non-retailers a taste of what’s behind the counter. Either way, if you’re getting malled this Holiday season, you’ll need a laugh and “Return to The Big Fancy” packs a lot of extras.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Two injured as vehicle smashes into Quiznos

Submitted by Keizer Fire District

Two patrons of a River Road sandwich shop were injured when a vehicle crashed through one of the shop’s front windows over the weekend.

Eleanor Pohl, 84, of Keizer was pulling up to Quizno’s, 5133 River Road N., around 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, when she told police she mistook the the accelerator for the brake and drove up over the curb and through the restaurant’s window.

Two patrons were struck as the vehicle entered the building. A 43-year-old male suffered injuries to his legs and a 43-year old female suffered cuts, abrasions and bruising. While none of the injures appeared to be life-threatening, both were transported to Salem Hospital for evaluation, police officials said.

Keizer Police and the Keizer Fire District both responded to the scene at 3:43 p.m. Keizer police are still investigating the crash and no citations have been issued as yet.

New florist fulfills lifelong dream

Julie Wallace is the new owner of Keizer Florist. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

Something fresh is in the air at Keizer Florist, and it’s not just the mums, the roses and the baby’s breath.

Its on-site cafe now opens at 6 a.m. daily serving fresh coffee and lattes to go with fresh-baked cookies and brownies. And its showroom has been refreshed to show more gifts, including a wide variety of gourmet chocolates, to go alongside what was already an impressive selection of fresh-cut flowers.

In the middle of it all is Julie Wallace. If you can’t find her, just look for the beaming smile.

This is life, full circle.

“My parents, in our living room, had French doors opening into a greenhouse. It was heated and watered, so we grew our own flowers,” Wallace said. “I’ve had my fingers in it all my life.”

A love for plants would seemingly be part and parcel of the desire to open a floral shop, and the green thumb she picked up as a child has developed with Wallace as an adult. Her home has its own greenhouse and she’s been president of her local garden club.

And when she decided to make a real, professional go at the floral dream she enrolled at Portland’s Floral Design Institute, including its entrepreneurship weekend. (Wallace knows her numbers, having a hand in managing the Oregon Department of Transportation’s bond portfolio when she worked for the state.)

“Besides teaching form and style and space and technique, they teach you about each one of the flowers, how to process it and how to lengthen their life,” Wallace said. “One thing I got out of my formal design is to stick my bouquets in the refrigerator at night.”

Originally from Michigan, she and her husband live in their retirement home near Gates. She chose Keizer Florist in part because she enjoyed the local community, having lived here in the 1990s.

She said a floral shop like Keizer Florist’s advantage over grocery or non-specialty vendors is the care they receive, both before and after they arrive:

“They’re more expensive, but the quality’s there. It lasts longer,” she said.

Besides Wallace, the store has nine employees, including manager Kellie Hoops. A new barista will help operate the cafe, which will utilize the building’s drive-up window.She hopes to maintain upon and build the customer base built by prior owner Dennis Scott, and the Hupy family before him.

“There are customers that are loyal, who moved out of the area and still come here,” she said.

Her designs are grand, and she may not be content with business as it stands today, but the happiness is on her face.

“I’m one of those people who if my fingers are in the dirt, I’m happy,” she said. “And it smells good in here.”

631 Chemawa Rd N., Keizer

(503) 390-8447

Monday though Friday 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sat-Sun 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.