Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The End of an Era

Last week I heard that a long-standing source of vintage trimmings, beads and buttons was moving and downsizing - effectively, closing for good a source of impossible-to-find-nowadays embellishments that we always assumed would be available. A restaurant will fill this space (the rent was increased exorbitantly), just one of many on this street that was once filled with bead and glass gem stores. A few remain, but many are gone.

Ribbons and trims on the wall and in antique displays

The Tinsel Trading Company opened in 1933 in NYC's Garment District. I started shopping there in the 1970s as a teenager when I apprenticed at Ray Diffen's costume shop and had to buy fabrics and trimmings for the opera and Broadway show costumes that Ray's staff built. When the original owner died, his granddaughter, Marcia Ceppos, took over, and the shop grew and moved to two different locations over the next 20 years. It's now in an airy space on West 37th between 5th and 6th Avenues that Marcia has decorated in vintage style that perfectly frames her wares. She is still uncovering treasures that have been packed away, but the shop is downsizing and moving to the east 60s, so this is the last chance for anyone to see and buy most of these lovelies. It's my understanding that Marcia is limiting her stock to paper goods, which are indeed beautiful, but the beads and trimmings that she has sold are truly one of a kind. I only wish that I could buy all of it!

The costume shops and the Metropolitan Opera have been by to purchase as much as their budgets will allow, but no one today has enough spare $ to buy what their impulses and nostalgia crave!

                                                 Tinsel Trading has exquisite fake flowers!

A wall of ribbon and trim on sale

Millinery straw and more trim

All of these beauties must find new homes!

Over the last 20 years sources for costume designers in New York City and elsewhere have closed as Manhattan real estate prices have become unreasonable and older owners died, leaving no one to carry on the business, or children with no interest or acumen to keep it going. Fabric, button, notion and trimming shops that once filled every street in the Garment District have disappeared, replaced by restaurants, hotels, The New York Times, whatever. Yes, new businesses have sprouted up here and there, but the old places linger on, ghosts in the memories of anyone old enough who is still working in the business. The Drama Book Shop now resides in the space once occupied by Art-Max Fabrics on West 40th street, and the colorful stone floor survives. Did you know that 40th street between Broadway and 8th Avenue was once a block full of fabric and trim shops? There are only two left: Elegant Fabrics and Sposabella Lace.

It's getting harder for me to find the components that I use in the city these days, and last year I made a large purchase at Tinsel Trading when I saw that things were slowing down for them, so when I heard this news, I rushed over that very day to see what I could find and grab. There's actually quite a lot left, including some fixtures like antique shelves. I buy vintage glass cabochons and beads, some 100 years old, but most of my purchases date from the 1930s to mid-century. Now that I have some metalsmithing skills, I can make sterling silver, copper, brass and bronze bezel settings that truly showcase these beauties.

My most recent purchase from Tinsel. Someone cleared out the chandelier crystals, alas!

I wish Marcia & Co. good fortune and hope that her store will flourish in its new location, but I am filled with sadness that this business will be so diminished and that our lovely places to shop and meet and chat are ever-dwindling. Stepping through the door of Tinsel Trading Co. was a mini-vacation from the concrete and glass awfulness that this city can be.

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