When you have a business–you are far from perfect– no doubt about it.. Here are two of my biggest ‘retail” mistakes from my book- Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac.
Flaming Groovies 1978-1980
An empty store became available across the street from my store– positioned between the ultra swanky men’s shop Luna and the coffee shop that made the best bacon sandwiches ever. I wasn’t really enthused about opening up Flaming Groovies, but Ange was. It just didn’t make sense having two stores so close. Granted, Flash Cadilac was still on the second floor, and he thought we would have more exposure on the ground floor.
Thinking back, if I had been smarter, I should have just taken all the adult ‘entertainment devices’ and made that the focus. But, it was was still too early to have something like that in broad daylight with constant exposure. It would have opened up a huge can of worms with the public and the powers-to-be. We really tried to make that store work, and it even got featured on the CTV National and Local news with all the live fashion shows we did in the window. But even a name change to “Nightmares, by Linda Ducharme” couldn’t save it, and we sadly leased it out to Spinables.
Flash Cadilac, Yonge Street, Toronto 1980-1984
We had been wholesaling out some of our merchandise to Yorkville stores in Toronto, and had a great deal of public interest. There were a lot of rock bands out of Toronto shopping at the Ottawa store, so when a location became available three blocks from the Eaton Centre, we grabbed it.
I was always concerned about hiring staff for a location that was 5 hours away from us. One of my Ottawa staff, Julie, agreed to go and manage the store, and that was a relief to me. Sadly, my beautiful wandering gypsy tired of the store quickly, and one year we went through 42 staff. We had installed an alarm system that monitored when they opened and closed, and soon reports were showing openings at 3pm some days, and closing very late at night. We could never figure out what was going on in that store during those hours and did get a clear answer.. Was it private parties? Drug dealing? Tales of the unexplained.
Even if the sales were not that great, there were benefits. The local fashion media lapped us up and we had constant exposure in videos, Flare and Style magazine, and the Toronto Star. Former epitome of hot sexy 80’s hard rock queen Lee Aaron wore our clothing. She posed in one of our famous suspendered wrestler bathing suits on the cover of the men’s magazine OUI in 1982. Hugh Hefner’s Canadian girlfriend- Carrie Leigh also sported some of our fashions.
I wish to add that none of our clothing was involved when Leigh sued Hefner for $5 million in palimony after the two broke up. “He promised to marry and support me,” she said at a press conference. The Playmate of the Year later got married to someone else, dropped the suit, and as far as I know never shopped at our store again.
In 1984 I became pregnant with Schuyleur, and between the mental anguish, and draining overhead, we sold the location and called it a day. Like Carrie Leigh we had to move on. But, if anything came out of that store beside publicity then it was a ‘clothing friendship’ created between our store and Yonge Street’s famous Cat’s Cradle. Third generation twins, Jo-Anne and Caryl Citron took their store on a journey of cotton knitwear fashion in the 80’s, and our designs were proudly carried by them for a few years. That was an honour in itself.
Photo by Wanita Bates- Flash Cadilac 1976-1995