Word Nerd

I am a connoisseur of words. As a naming consultant, I help companies and products adopt identities (check out SmarttIdeas.com). So imagine my delight when a fellow consultant introduced me to a website called Wordle.com that makes “word clouds” based on the frequency of words within a selected block of text. I cut-and-pasted all 70,000+ words of my book and this is the cloud that transpired. Dreamy!


Happy days!

That’s what my family always says when they raise a glass for a toast! 

Today’s reason for a toast: my brother-in-law, John Adamson, just dropped by with a gift. He found an unopened bottle of “Taylor New York State Golden Sherry” – most likely purchased by his late grandmother – with the Thalhimers price tag still on it. She got a good deal. The original price was $4.99 but had been marked down to $3.99.

The Taylor Wine Company dates back to the 1880s. When do you think a bottle of Sherry cost $3.99 at Thalhimers? ImageImage

Old School Jewels

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Do you remember buying Schreiner costume jewelry at Thalhimers?

Schreiner Jewelry Co. was founded in 1939 in New York, NY, by Henry Schreiner. The small, family run company manufactured extraordinary costume jewelry throughout the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Admired by collectors and fashion enthusiasts alike, many believe that there is no other costume jewelry designer who consistently made such fine, diverse, and original pieces. In addition to creating their own collections, they collaborated with many of the top couturiers including Christian Dior, Norman Norell, and Pauline Trigère. At the height of their popularity, pieces by the Schreiner Jewelry Co. graced the covers of Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar and were touted by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, and Audrey Hepburn.

Schreiner jewelry was sold in the fashion department at Thalhimers Department Store. Take a look at the images…do you remember purchasing or selling these incredible jewels? If so, researcher Eve Townsend wants to know. Eve works for the Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection, and the pieces depicted here are part of Ms. Tanenbaum’s personal collection. They are collaborating on a book and gathering research. If you have a story to share, contact them through the website www.caroletanenbaum.com or on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/caroletanenbaumvintage

How do I know if a piece of jewelry I own was made by Schreiner?

The Schreiner Jewelry Co. never signed pieces going to the couturiers, leaving many Schreiner pieces to be found unsigned today. When pieces are signed they have a cartouche marked Schreiner New York or Schreiner.










The following list of signature characteristics can help you identify unmarked Schreiner jewels:

Inverted Stones:

One of the most famous characteristics of Schreiner jewelry is their use of inverted or “upside down” set stones. The Schreiner Jewelry Co. intentionally set their stones with the point up to optimize sparkle and to add depth and dimension to their pieces. When placed on a garment, the unfoiled stones allowed the fabric to show through creating the illusion that the jewelry was an extension of the clothing.



Hook-and-Eye Construction:

As any collector of costume jewelry will tell you- examining a piece from the back can often tell you as much as the front. The Schreiner Jewelry Co. is well known for their use of the hook-and-eye construction. Utilizing this method allowed them to produce pieces (particularly brooches) in separate parts and then later layer them on top of one another like a wedding cake. This innovative method meant they could eliminate the use of soldering between sections. As a result, today we find a tremendous amount of Schreiner pieces in pristine condition because they haven’t fallen victim to weak soldering. It is important to note that other designers such as Warner and Regency also produced pieces with this type of construction so the presence of hook-and-eye alone does not necessarily identify a  piece to be Schreiner.



Crimped “Cupcake” Settings:

Another well-known Schreiner characteristic is the use of crimped settings. Known to collectors as “cupcake” settings because of their likeness to cupcake holders they add a decorative detail to a piece. Again, there were various designers who incorporated crimped settings into their pieces. So the presence of cupcake settings alone do not, by themselves, attribute a piece to be Schreiner.





Fancy Prongs:

Schreiner stones are almost always prong-set but it is really the types of prongs they chose to use which sets the Schreiner Jewelry Co. apart from the rest. Fancy prongs, Fleur de Les prongs, and elaborate houndstooth prongs are all used by Schreiner.

When trying to attribute a pair of earrings to Schreiner the key is to examine the earring backs. Although Schreiner is known for using a couple of types of earring clips the most common is the donut hole, which features a single round hole at the top of the clip. Schreiner necklaces often feature a five-ring extension accented by five prong-set stones.


If any of these jewels look like something in your jewelry box (or your mom’s or grandmother’s), please get in touch with Eve!

Thanks to Lori Stuart, here’s the original recipe for Thalhimers’ Chicken Salad. Lori said on Finding Thalhimers’ Facebook page: 

This is the authentic recipe from the old Thalhimers Tea Room lunchroom, (fancy locally owned store chain in VA) given to me by a man who was a personal friend of one of the cooks. This was a secret recipe back then, but now that the store is no more, go ahead and spread it it around. It’s delicious!


Thalhimers’ Chicken Salad

2 cups cubed cooked chicken

2 cups finely chopped celery

2 tbs lemon juice

1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise (no substitutes, only one thick enough)

1/2 teaspoon white pepper (the “secret ingredient”!)

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, chicken, celery, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Stir to blend. Add white pepper and salt, mix thoroughly. Chill before serving.

Then close your eyes and pretend you’re at Thalhimers…



Anyone remember taking the bus downtown to shop at Thalhimers and Miller & Rhoads?

Well, today’s bus trip was of a different sort. Initiated by an enthusiastic and youthful 81-year-old woman named Eunice, a Finding Thalhimers tour group explored Richmond to see sites mentioned in the book. In the morning, they viewed Thalhimers’ history with a Valentine History Center tour guide, and in the afternoon they visited Beth Ahabah synagogue and Hebrew Cemetery, where they were promised a “surprise.”

Since I’m staying busy with 7-week-old Ethan William at home, I couldn’t join the tour for the whole day, but Dad and I met up with the group at Hebrew Cemetery. The two of us strolled around together, putting stones on the resting places of our loved ones, then watched as a big tour bus drove up. The first thing that caught my eye was that the bus appeared to be driven by a Snow Bear sitting next to a copy of Finding Thalhimers. The bus parked alongside the cemetery, and Eunice stepped out to meet us and thank us for coming. She told me she had read the book three times, and even had stashed within its pages an old Thalhimers bag and my sister’s wedding announcement as bookmarks. (I told her she should write the sequel!) Then, about forty people filed out of the bus for the walk up the hill into the old part of Hebrew Cemetery. I led them to the shady spot under the old magnolia tree where William and Mary Thalhimer are buried.

I said a little bit about our family visiting Tairnbach, the birthplace of William Thalhimer, and bringing dirt and stones to America to spread upon his gravesite and let him know we had brought his story full circle. That day was not only my birthday, but I was pregnant with my first child. After I spoke, I turned it over to Dad. He gets nervous whenever he has a speech to read, but he’s one of the warmest off-the-cuff public speakers I’ve ever witnessed, and today was no exception. After sharing a bit of history, he surprised me by saying something like, “I think William and Mary would be proud to see us all gathered here in memory of our family and their store, and particularly proud of Elizabeth. I couldn’t be more proud of her and what she has done to preserve our family’s legacy. And the ultimate honor, of course, is that her 7-week-old son’s middle name is William.” Of course, his emotion combined with this circle of strangers in the old cemetery brought tears to my eyes. I found myself witnessing another circular moment connecting past, present and future.

I’m exhausted from caring for a baby, but needed to share this beautiful story before it too became history. Too many moments pass that I’m not able to capture my gratitude for those who have read my book and told me in their own words how it was meaningful to them. So, thank you, Eunice. It was a lovely afternoon that I won’t forget.

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It’s not a difficult game to play, but guess which ad I drew when I was visiting the Advertising Department at Thalhimers in the late 1980s. The rest of the ads are real, all of them courtesy of Pat Richardson of “Sky City: Southern Retail Then and Now” except for the framed image, which hangs in our powder room. (In the context of vintage ads, it only feels right to call it a “powder room.”)

Swan song

Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Thalhimers closed up shop? 
 For this bittersweet anniversary, join me for my final Finding Thalhimers book signing before my baby boy arrives.
Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm
Fountain Bookstore
1312 E. Cary Street
Buy a signed copy! Eat six-layer chocolate cake! Shop local! Suggest baby names!
Hope to see you there.
P.S. – I didn’t even notice how cool it was that I brought a “Thalhimers Fountain Coffee” tin to Fountain Bookstore until I got there. How hip is that?
P.P.S. – Did you know that Fountain Bookstore is located within walking distance from the original Thalhimers’ location in Shockoe Bottom?

This happened:


I’d like to dedicate this blog post to the bravery of all of the sit-in protesters, but particularly to Elizabeth Johnson Rice. She has helped me gain perspective on the events of February 22, 1960, at Thalhimers from the viewpoint of the sit-in protesters…and become a friend for life. Thanks, Liz!

Get Unstuck

I haven’t worn my “writer’s hat” much on this blog, but I’m a big fan of the writing community continuing to develop here in Richmond, Virginia. Today I’d like to tip my writer’s hat to Noah Scalin, local author/artist/designer/thinker/activist/blogger/musician/teacher and — most importantly — the designer of my book’s beautiful cover! Noah keeps me feeling inspired with his energy and productivity, and he shares some of his secrets in his latest book, Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & In Your Studio.

The book features a series of exercises and suggestions to stir creative thinking and get you out of whatever rut you may be in. I was flattered that Noah asked me to be one of 12 professionals sharing their methods of getting creatively unstuck. (See my profile on p. 200-201) Here’s something I shared about my office days working as a Naming Consultant in New York City:

It sounds too simple to work, but stepping out of my comfort zone (and the cubicle!) made a huge difference in spurring my creativity. The hardest part was convincing my coworkers that I was working, not playing hooky. Once they realized that the quality of my creative work was higher when I left the office and found interesting spots to sit and observe the world from a different angle, it became part of my daily routine. 

Visit Noah’s website at http://www.noahscalin.com and buy the book through your local bookseller via http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780760341346

Dream store

Do you ever have dreams that linger crystal clear in your memory the next day? I had one of those dreams, and can recall every detail.

There was an abandoned building in Richmond that had extraordinary windows in its atrium, and about six floors of selling space overlooking the atrium past intricately carved ironwork railings. I toured the empty space and decided it was time to reinvent the department store. For some reason, a whole group of people had gathered who agreed…and we decided to buy the store as a group.

It wouldn’t be a typical department store, but a co-op owned by any community member who wanted to invest. It would have traditional buyers stocking the store with the finest merchandise, but also a group of local vendors and artists on the main floor. Its restaurant would feature locally grown foods, and the food shop would be like a farmers’ market. There would be classes for children to learn crafts, and cooking classes for adults. It would be a community center as much as a department store.

When I awoke from this dream, I immediately looked up “Galeries Lafayette” on Google Images. And, although I haven’t visited that store since an 8th grade trip to France, it was exactly as grand as I pictured it…


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