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Emily Grossman

Window Shopping

January 5, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Here I sit, in front of the computer at my relatives' farmhouse in rural PA, scanning maps of New York City.  I thought it might be fun while I was in the area to check out some shops and try some instruments in the next price bracket--you know, just to see what is out there--so I could begin making plans for a future savings investment.  The thought of actually stepping inside a glitzy NY store gives me anxiety, though.  (Upon reviewing previous blogs back to back, I see my anxiety is an ongoing theme...)  Having grown up in Oklahoma, a state with completely different protocol concerning hospitality and social interaction, I was in for a rude surprise the first time I dealt with the East Coast.  

My first cold shoulder came from a lady at a Godiva shop in one of the New Jersey malls.  Wanting a little splurge to cap off my happy day of bargain shopping, I perused the truffles while the sales clerk assisted another customer.  Finally, I got her attention.  "How much for that one?" I asked, pointing at a particularly tempting one.  "Oh, they're very expensive."  Shrugging and slightly taken aback, I replied, "I know, but I just want a couple.  How much?"  With a layer of ice, she repeated, "Honey, these are very expensive."  Not knowing how to get any further in this conversation, and already feeling put on the spot for no reason whatsoever, and having not experienced such snubbery since 7th grade lunch period with the cheerleaders, I simply retreated with my tail tucked between my legs, sans chocolate.  My mother-in-law was irate when she heard about my denial, and gave me a whole box of Godiva chocolates for Christmas. 

I received similar treatment when shopping for wedding rings.  What was it, my attire?  The way I approached the salesperson? Did I smell funny?  I couldn't figure it out.  They particularly didn't like the fact that I insisted I didn't want anything obtrusive on my finger to get in the way of my activities.  I didn't want to get dough stuck in the prongs.  I didn't want it to catch in the reins while practicing dressage.  And I most certainly didn't want to have to take it off every time I practiced.  They kept saying, "No, you want it to be big, to pop out and dazzle, and catch people's eyes from across the room."  I don't know what they thought I was trying to attract with shiny objects: my friends are neither ravens nor racoons.  I ended up contacting a shop on the isle of Skye in Scotland for a simple celtic knot.

When visiting Kansas City a couple of weeks ago, I was welcomed with the kindest of royal treatment.  Wyatt Violins will show you the entire collection while you have your bow rehaired, walking you to your car with an armload of freebies at the end of the day--nice to see you, take care, keep in touch!  Seeing as how they offered me full-value trade-in toward my next instrument, it would be convenient if they could track down my next  violin and have it waiting for me the next time I'm down from Alaska.  Now wouldn't that be nice?

Still, curiosity leads me to the Big Apple.  There, I plan to meet a new violin connection (an internet aquaintance formed through my nightmarish settlement for the bow burning), who will do me the honor of showing me around the area.  Hopefully, I can ride on her coat tails, appearing as though I always do this sort of thing.  I'll simply hide my road map in my case pocket, and perhaps my unfamiliar audience won't know that I would be more comfortable reeling in a king salmon in front of them than trying out an expensive violin. 

From Royce Faina
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 2:06 AM

So you are the one who brought Alaskan weather down to the 48 in the East!!!! Revenge for being snubbed? You must have a bit of Wyoming in you!

From Tess Z
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 7:11 AM

I did not realize Godiva chocolate was so dear that it can only be acquired with a gold card.  And apparently that daft woman's relation was working at the jewelry store when you were shopping for a diamond.  I hope you have a great time visiting shops in NY.

From Susan Young
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 5:41 PM

LOL!  I feel your pain!  I have a hard time getting assistance in some of the glitzier stores because jeans and a jean jacket is normal attire for me.  Often with holes.   I once felt totally out of place in New Orleans when we stayed at an upscale hotel with valet service.  After they took my car ( a cheap little hatchback), I remembered that I had left several hundred dollars hidden in an Illinois road map and a John Denver cassette case.  I asked where my car was parked and they told me they would retrieve what I wanted for me.  NO WAY!   I wasn't about to say that I couldn't live without my John Denver music! 

From John Cadd
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Richard Ingrams (the Editor of Private Eye magazine ) went to collect his son from his posh boarding school at the end of term on a small moped. When his son met him all the others were climbing into Ferraris etc.   He greeted his son with the words " His Lordship sent me to get you sir .He can`t get the Rolls through the gate."

From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 6:56 PM

There are the rare few of us who are not bought by inflated notions of status symbols or shiny packaging, but live a closer connection with the earth, simply and concisely, in order to afford stock in a higher pursuit: the violin.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 9:03 PM

Godiva chocolates are expensive, but, . . . .

From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Oh, I know, it's not even that good.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on January 6, 2011 at 10:49 PM

I think you'll have a great time in NYC's violin shops, Emily.  They're mostly hidden inside larger buildings, and stepping inside of them is less about glitz than it is like stepping back in time...  and no Godiva-lke incidents likely, at least from those luthiers I've gone to... 

On the subject of chocolate, good chocolate, we've got tons of Godiva shops but also many others far better...and not crazy expensive, if you're only in the market for a handful (or two).  Jacques Torres (on Hudson in the West Village and also Brooklyn) is great and, relatively speaking, not all that expensive.  La Maison du Chocolat  (rockefeller center) is also pretty amazing.. oh, no...gotta stop ...I'm getting a craving right now and I'm only two blocks away...

From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 7, 2011 at 4:27 AM

I'm in love with Jacques Torres.  I could watch him pipe macaroons all day.  I would marry him just for his chocolate.

Don't tell George I said that.

From Nicole Stacy
Posted on January 7, 2011 at 4:40 AM

That's not an East Coast thing.  Left turn on red is an East Coast thing.  What you describe is just plain snobbishness. 

If I was feeling evil, I'd go for the passive-aggressive sucker punch: "It's a shame I don't work here.  You probably get them at a discount.  But I hear retail is hell.  ...You know, I'm watching my waist anyway.  Cheers!" 

[Translated: "You probably are secretly cheap, hate your job, and eat a little too much free chocolate."]

You might get a kick out of this piece from The Onion:,10836/

Some of the teachers I have known did not have a great deal of trust in violin dealers as a group, but violin shopping is still better, and easier than trying to find a pair of jeans!  Now why is that?


From Jim Hastings
Posted on January 7, 2011 at 5:25 AM

I feel like I've been on a journey myself, just from reading this -- even though my only visit to NYC was at age 13 one mid-summer.  It was fun -- I visited the Empire State Building three times.

"Having grown up in Oklahoma, a state with completely different protocol concerning hospitality and social interaction …."

This is the part I've been thinking about all evening.  I have crisscrossed through Oklahoma probably a half-dozen times on my travels, and the hospitality there is a definite standout.  These people have always made me feel at home.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 7, 2011 at 6:24 AM

"Some of the teachers I have known did not have a great deal of trust in violin dealers as a group..."

Now, why wouldn't you trust a violin dealer, Stacy?  What could they possibly do?  Sell your violin and pocket the money?  Commit insurance fraud?  What?--No!

Maybe that kind of thing only happens in New Jersey.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on January 7, 2011 at 5:03 PM

You had to bring up the jeans thing, didn't you?  Every woman's nightmare, regardless of size and shape!

If there's anything more entertaining than outright snobbery, it's outright reverse snobbery.  I used to get it at the local food coop.  The same outfit that would get me treated like I had just stepped in a cowpie elsewhere would get me treated poorly there because I was just too clean and shiny.  I once walked in the place with a man who happened to be wearing a jacket and tie.  We were afraid of being pelted with the organic free-range whole grain tomatoes by the time we left!

From Wei Zhang
Posted on January 8, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Godiva is available in most duty free shops in airports. I bought them for my wife and two songs oa few times. They behaved quite fine.

I can not imagine how silly the shop keeper behaved to you in Big Apple. It is either an indication of shallow mind or a cheap sales trick or a mixture of both.

Try Godiva shop next time in airport, they behave better there.


From Kim Vawter
Posted on January 10, 2011 at 9:41 PM

 Humm? --A Mall in New Jersey. I'm from New Jersey and I can't remember that degree of snobbery.  I have lived in the Midwest most of my adult life.  I feel like  some sort of snobbery descending on me silently as I go into any violin shop since I am still a beginner and don't feel "worthy"  yet to walk into such a wonderful place!  However-- fortunately, the shops I visited in Kansas City bent over backwards to make me feel welcome.

 A woman on a mission for chocolate is nothing to trifle with!  I mean business when I go into a chocolate shop and am prepared to deal.  What a shabby way to treat someone on a mission for chocolate!   My crazy mind has been trying to think of some sort of revenge for that nasty snobby woman --Something really gross.  Walk into that same shop, dressed to the "Nines"  and ask for a 5 pound box of dark chocolate assorted creams. Then smile really wide and reveal a piece of spinach in your teeth. As if that isn't bad enough, whip out a $100 bill to use as a tooth-pick.  

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