The Retail World Is Now Restored To Normal Working Order

A couple of weeks before my book came out, my fellas and I had just finished eating a little Mexican food when I said, “Hey. I know what we can do next. I need to run in Steinmart to look for a couple of shirts for book signing stuff, so maybe y’all could drop me off there and then hang out at the bookstore for a little while.” They agreed that the plan was full of win, mainly because they would not be subjected to shopping with me, a task that is apparently – at least for them – only slightly less enjoyable than a attending a four-hour poetry reading where someone serves them dainty portions of cold food.

I try not to take offense. I know in my heart of hearts that I am a delightful shopper. It’s just that my tendency to be a thorough shopper pretty much drives them crazy.

So we hopped in the car and made the trip over to the Steinmarts. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and I remember thinking that the crowd seemed a little sparse for a Friday night. However, I chalked that up to good shopping fortune, and as I was grabbing my purse before I got out of the car, David mentioned that it looked like there were some signs hanging on the front entrance.

I looked toward the doors, and sure enough, I spotted the signs. And then I noticed that there didn’t seem to be anyone inside the store. So I asked D to drive a little closer, and as we approached the sidewalk in front of the store, I started to worry that something at my Steinmarts had gone horribly awry.

Alex and I jumped out of the car (I think he felt like he had happened upon a mystery), and I promise you that I felt like a character in some sort of post-apocalyptic disaster movie as we walked up to the doors. I was stunned as much as anything else, and when I was finally able to read the signs, I felt a little bit like Tea Leoni staring out at the ocean in Deep Impact. You know, the ocean that had just been hit by a comet that was going to DESTROY THE WORLD.

(I can’t imagine why the men in my life don’t enjoy shopping with me.)

(I am very level-headed and always maintain such a healthy perspective!)

Here’s what the signs said:


It was all so sudden. So unexpected. And, you know, not to be selfish or anything, but given the fact that I had some SPECIFIC CLOTHING NEEDS for book stuff, the timing was not at all convenient.

The next week I made a trip to a Steinmart in another part of town, and I was fascinated by the differences. Most of the women in the store were probably somebody’s Martha or somebody’s Sissie – you could just tell that it was a store that women liked to visit after they got their hair fixed at the beauty parlor. I later told Melanie that as far as the clothing selection was concerned, I had never in my life seen such an impressive array of petite floral club shirts. Mel and I eventually pieced together a loose (and possibly unreliable) theory that the Steinmarts must target different demographics in different stores, and the demographic for that particular store was People Who Go On Lots of Cruises. And if the sheer volume of three-piece, dressy suits was any indication, they’re also People Who Still Wear Hose To Church. I could’ve stayed there and people-watched all day.

Eventually I decided to go to couple of department stores to find what I was looking for. It was sad, though, because I’m used to Steinmart being my go-to in times of fashion need. For thirteen years my Steinmart and I have weathered all manner of fashion-related storms, and if we made it through 2001 and 2002, when I owned ALL the floral capri pants, then surely Steinmart wouldn’t desert me right here in 2013 when I am trying to thoughtfully and methodically evaluate all the colored denim – not to mention the maxi dresses – that the good Lord hath provided. Right?

But alas, my favorite Steinmart remained closed. I sort of pieced together that there must have been trouble with the store’s physical structure (I say that like I launched an in-depth investigation, but the fact that there was yellow KEEP AWAY tape running along one side of the building, along with some huge steel beams braced against the outer wall – well, 2 + 2, etc.). And while I know that what I’m about to tell you may speak to a certain (unhealthy?) level of emotional attachment, I missed the people who worked there. There are six or seven people who have been at that store since D and I moved here in 2000, and thirteen years of Steinmart shopping will forge some bonds. No doubt out it.


A couple of weeks ago Alex and I noticed that there was some activity in an empty storefront that’s in the same shopping center as our Steinmart. We could see that people were working on the floors and walls inside, so I crossed my fingers that a new Steinmart day was about to dawn. And sure enough, when Alex and I were running errands earlier today, I saw a lot of cars in front of what used to be a Circuit City. So we turned into the shopping center, rounded the corner – and then I squealed.

Seriously. I squealed.

I squealed like I was a twelve year-old who had just won backstage passes for a Taylor Swift concert. WITH A SPECIAL APPEARANCE BY ONE DIRECTION, Y’ALL.


Oh, it was a sweet, sweet reunion. However, I may have scared Elizabeth, who works at the Customer Service register, when I walked in and said, “OH MY WORD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW I’VE MISSED Y’ALL WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED.” Once we were all caught up, I made a loop around the store and visited with some of the ladies who work there, and after about fifteen minutes, I realized that I might need to REIN IN THE ENTHUSIASM, GLADYS. I mean, I don’t think I left anybody needing a sedative or anything like that, but there were a couple of people who may have looked a little startled.

To my credit, I didn’t hug anyone. Clearly I exercised remarkable restraint.

So. We are just as happy as we can be around here. Or at least I am. Because truth be told, nobody else in this house is all that concerned with the state of the Steinmarts. But I am so tickled that it is back, and it is open, and even better, it is home to an extensive collection of maxi dresses.

Hallelujah. And also amen.

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  1. Now I REALLY have to make a trip over there! Not only do I need(want) to go to Costco, I must go to this mecca of the Steinmarts! Yes, they do have demographics they serve because the ones in Jackson vs Flowood are different in the type of clothes they have. I like the Hattiesburg one too but it’s been a long time since I have been. So now I must head that way one of these days so I can scratch that Steinmart, Costco, and Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck) itch.

  2. Love you and this post. Also, now that I’ve read your book, I appreciate the Martha and Sissie references all the more.


  3. This post made me exceptionally happy. Although (wait for it) I’ve never (yes, it’s coming) shopped at a Stein Mart. Really. (Gasp!)

    I do believe that most stores that have several locations DO have a variety of demographics, etc. But I am relieved for you that your store has returned to your rightful reaching ability. ;)

  4. Heather says:

    I do hope the Steinmarts was well stocked with three quarter length jackets. Cooking jackets even.

  5. Ya know how there is that one part of Scripture that recommends not doing a thing that might be just fine for you to do, but would bring a sister down? This may be one of those situations. Oh, my maxi-dress-related jealousy is rearing its ugly head. Mayhaps none should speak of the maxi dresses, at least not if tiny 4’11-but-round people are reading, for lo, we would WEEP to wear a flattering maxi dress. But I do celebrate your retail joy, I do.

    • KimberlyOKC says:

      Amen, Sister! (from a 5’2″-but-round person)

    • the maxi-dress is just not making much of an appearance here in Alaska. I must ask, yet again, where so you where these maxi dresses? just everyday wear?

      • goodness, my cast must be getting in the way of the keyboard. “where do you wear these maxi dresses?”

  6. I am also a thorough shopper, and I drive my own self crazy! I just don’t want to miss anything.

  7. Happy to know I am not the only person that adds an ‘s’ at the end!

  8. I think the one that I used to love must have changed to the other demographic, because I can’t find anything anymore :( Used to have a great fondness. Sad!

  9. My two favorite phrases you have ever written might be People Who Go On Lots of Cruises and People Who Still Wear Hose to Church. Thank you for that.

  10. I laughed over those 2 above phrases also, except, shoot, I still wear hose to church and I’m not that old. But I think my legs look scary without some color and it’s deeply air conditioned at our church, so I can survive. I am hoping that the color name ‘nude” is fooling people.

  11. Wendy C. says:

    I just love you! Seriously, I just love you! I can’t help but have a smile on my face nearly every time I read your blog. You certainly bring out the fun and joy in most any situation. Thank you for that!

    I also agree with some of the other comments that “People Who Go On Lots of Cruises and People Who Still Wear Hose to Church” are some of the best phrases ever.

  12. Oh my! I can really relate! I’m fortunate enough to live in THE town from which Steinmart was birthed and those folks are like family! I do still mourn the days of the old-original Steinmart with the grocery cart shopping baskets!

  13. Jennifer S says:

    Sophie – they took my Steinmart COMPLETELY AWAY…I had a lovely store just a mile from my house and the property owners jacked up the rent so high that EVERY DECENT store has since left the shopping center. They replaced my Steinmart with a PETSMART. Now I have to drive 20 minutes to get to one. It’s tragic I tell you.

  14. Kelly O says:

    I think you and my Mama must live in the same part of Birmingham, because she called me a few weeks ago to tell me that SteinMart was closed (it was the one I used to go to all the time too) and then more recently that she’d heard they were building a new one.

    I just about cried when I found the SteinMart here in our Houston suburb. Now if I could just get a Belk’s.

  15. My mom loves the 150 Steinmart but I never find much for myself in there (I’m 26)…maybe I should visit your “hip” Steinmart ;-)

  16. Uh….wait….did you mean to leave a cliffhanger there? Or am I the only one who is wondering why Steinmart had to move?

    It’s not like this knowledge will help me any. I’m in Arkansas (woo pig), not right around the corner.

    Weird things keep me up at night.

    • You’re not the only one wondering!

      • KimberlyOKC says:

        “But alas, my favorite Steinmart remained closed. I sort of pieced together that there must have been trouble with the store’s physical structure (I say that like I launched an in-depth investigation, but the fact that there was yellow KEEP AWAY tape running along one side of the building, along with some huge steel beams braced against the outer wall – well, 2 + 2, etc.). “

  17. I am still on a quest for the perfect maxi dress. Do tell where you have found them!

  18. I am a new reader and laughed audibly at the paragraph explaining the demographic of your less than stellar Steinmart. I’m from the Midwest and we don’t have Steinmart, but my mom would shop at that location. She doesn’t cruise a lot, but wears hose EVERY DAY. Even in the summer. She treats them like Spanks (x?). It’s sad. I’m glad your Steinmart has reopened.

  19. So glad someone else shares the love for Stein Mart. Those little “If purchased elsewhere tags” get me every single time.

  20. Kristen says:

    This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours, although there are many! We are all happy that you have your Steinmarts back! Don’t know what I would do without mine!

  21. (Cue: Bright light and angels singing.) Of course! I do believe that you and Melanie have hit the nail on the head! It’s not just me, it’s Steinmarts marketing strategy. You’ve COMPLETELY explained why I only feel “Meh.” about my store. I’ve never been on a cruise and I can’t remember the last time I wore hose to church. And I’m still in my 30s thankyouverymuch. And I also know why I’ve never felt the need to try other stores when visiting other towns. Because more “meh”? Not while vacationing, thanks.

  22. Oh my goodness you do make me laugh! You are my new smile at work each day. Thank you! And I totally hear ya. We don’t have Steinmart here in CA that I am aware of. But I was completely thrown in a tizzy when I went to two of our local bookstores lately and they were CLOSED. Bookstores closed. In my lifetime! Clearly the End is near…. And this was only months after watching the Borders closing debacle that had left me stunned already….
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful humor and making my day. I am seriously glad to hear that the world has righted itself once again in your area of the world. If our super Barnes and Noble closes I am so moving to another state!

  23. Julie in Michigan says:

    So funny!
    I completely enjoyed reading your book Sophie!! I’ve passed it on to sister #1 and then sister #2.

  24. Oh yes you DO have the Steinmarts in CA! You do, you do and I miss it so! In SoCal, anyway. One of the very few things I miss about it, World Market being the other one.

    And Miss Sophie, I am 100 percent certain sure you weren’t the only one who went around sharing your delight with those you missed.

  25. KimberlyOKC says:

    You make me laugh!!! It’s because you are so comfortable in your own self, I guess!!! Thanks!

  26. I am so happy to have found your blog (through another blog that was touting your book). It makes me laugh and I so need that now. Even the comments make me smile! I’m not southern (am a midwesterner) but have great respect for y’all (picked that up when we lived a few years in Texas; it still comes out at times).

  27. And this post is why I love your blog!! Honest and entertaining it always makes me smile! I would be equally devestated should my TJ Maxx close down. P.S. the outfit choice for starkville book signing was great so you pulled it together well in the department stores!

  28. Our Steinmart closed a few years ago, my shoe wardrobe has not been the same since!

  29. Cindy L. says:

    My son was telling me a story about being at the mall. He referred to Belks as The Belks! Cracked me up and I immediately thought of you.

  30. You make me chuckle out loud! I’d never heard of Steinmart before I started following you and Melanie, and clearly I’m missing out. Sounds to me like you find joy and entertainment all around you – what’s not to love about that?

  31. I share your love for Steinmart. We are lucky enough to have one in our town. Love your blog and I’m going to order your book.

  32. Confession: I have never been to Stein Mart. In fact, I had never even heard of it until I started reading your blog back in ye olden days. Apparently the northeast doesn’t believe in Stein Mart. I did see a S.M. commercial once but it was very disappointing as the closest store was about 3,000 miles away. Cue an emotional and dramatic roller coaster over a store. (Welcome to my life.)

  33. Hysterical! From someone who deals with the “no Stein Mart in my town” blues, I am happy for you (and a tiny bit jealous)!
    I recently had a run-in with the crowd who “Still Wear Hose to Church” at my Belk… good times!

  34. I have shopped in Steinmarts for years and always loved looking at their cute home decor mostly. Sophie, what do us older ladies do since hose have gone the way of the full slip and we have WHITE legs that don’t look good against those white summer skirts?? I just felt NAKED the first time I went to church without my pantyhose! NAKED!! And I had to walk down in front of the entire church for a special prayer time. (Being the pastor’s wife….I need to go you understand) My entire SS class of young adults come bare-legged and flip-flops. Fine with me but I feel 105 if I have on hose and “Sunday shoes”. I’m telling you it’s put me in a quandary! That’s why I now look for “Sunday pantsuits” instead of dresses at Steinmarts!!

  35. I Love you. Hallelujah and also amen!

  36. I have never been to this store. That is on my “things to do” list now! Gotta see what I’m missing out on. I’ve heard Beth Moore say that she shops here, too. It must be good.