Friday, December 21, 2007


"Everyone has a Gump's story," says Marta Benson, who heads up marketing at the venerable emporium of art objects, luxury furniture, jewelry and home accessories. I happened to meet Benson amid a fit of holiday nostalgia having met up with Emily in Union Square after work and pre-party for a last-minute shop and H&M accessory run. We both had childhood memories associated with viewing ornate window displays at Gump's around Christmas. My Gump's story is wrapped up with drama class bus rides to the city to see ACT's A Christmas Carol production and spend an hour at Union Square's flagship department stores. Walking into Gump's back then, with its exotic craftwork, jewelry, Limoges and furniture displays, was like walking into a treasure chest. Though the store fed my burgeoning wanderlust, I was always a little afraid I might bump into some glassware and break it. The window displays were a little more approachable, and, at the time, enchanting with their dancing bears and North Pole scenes.
The windows outside Gump's, December 2007, were luxe, albeit stately, and adult. No movable parts to be seen. Perhaps the special holiday windows were on a different side of the streets?
"Where are the window displays?" I asked the Gump's employee who would turn out to be Benson.
"Right there," she said teasingly pointing to the non-moving windows. "Aren't they beautiful?" In back of her a row of Christmas ornaments glittered. Shoppers murmured over Asian artwork. The district attorney walked by. Last-minute gift purchasing was in full effect if without the frenzy of H&M.
Gump's, Benson reminded me has a history stretching 146 years back, institution status in these Western parts. The store has registers containing the signatures of countless dignitaries including U.S. presidents.
"Now aren't our windows nice?" she laughed. Fine glass, ebony boxes, embroidered cloth. No dancing bears or skating elves...but I had to agree.
Benson laughed again: "Macy's has the puppies and kittens in their windows, right around the block."

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