Readers of a certain age will remember the disturbing story of Karen Ann Quinlan who was at the center of a landmark legal case during the 1970'a in which her parents famously battled a hospital that refused to end her artificial life support after she had tragically fallen into a persistent vegetative state. After countless headlines and worldwide media attention, the parents won, and the plug was pulled, but in a shocking twist, Karen Ann remained alive but brain-dead for nine more years.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, it's all we can think of whenever we pass a branch of Otto Tootsi Plohound, the once cutting edge chain of shoe stores in Manhattan that has fallen into a steep decline in recent years. We noticed that their large Lafayette street store has finally been shuttered, leaving only it's lower Fifth Avenue store in operation.
Somebody pulled the plug, and it just. Won't. Die.
In order to understand the significance of this, one has to think back about 20 years. While we understand that many of you readers were infants at the time, The Shophound was not, so we remember that two small shoe stores on Prince street, Otto for men and Tootsi Plohound for women were creating a buzz at that time by selling all sorts of innovative new shoes from designers nobody had ever heard of whose lines would often appear at Barneys or Neiman Marcus a season or so later. Eventually, the two merged their names and came together a few blocks away at Otto Tootsi Plohound on West Broadway, offering designer labels like Costume National and Dsquared2. Even more lavish locations appeared on East 57th Street and in the Flatiron District along with labels like Miu Miu, Prada and exclusive French lines like Rodolphe Menudier. Then, a few years ago, the midtown branch closed, as well as the West Broadway location shortly thereafter. That left two still busy stores with a lineup of brands that had mysteriously slid downmarket. Gone were the exclusive European designers replaced with cheaper labels like Kenneth Cole and Converse, except at sale time when old merchandise would be hauled out for clearance.
We don't usually root for a store closing. Our Karma can't afford that sort of behavior, but it is depressing to see a once glamorous store degenerate so dramatically. For once, we wouldn't mind seeing it just put out of its misery.