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Catalog gifts at both ends of spectrum

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Ordinarily, I get all bent out of shape about Christmas catalogs arriving in my mailbox before Halloween. I am willing, however, to make exceptions for two retailers: Neiman-Marcus and Lehman’s.

Neiman-Marcus, of course, is the high-end retailer known for high fashion with prices to match, with a catalog that always includes a “fantasy” section full of gift ideas just perfect for the gazillionaire who has everything. This year, for example, you can pick up an outdoor entertainment center with 201-inch screen and 7.1 digital surround sound for a cool $1.5 million (plus shipping and handling).

Lehman’s is the Kidron, Ohio purveyor of the practical (and portal to the past, to take this alliteration thing to the point of the preposterous), with a catalog that caters to the Amish and other plain folks. For example, you can pick up what appears to be the Cadillac of cider presses for $1,495 plus $175 freight.

I love the idea that I could get catalogs from two such different retailers in the same month — actually, within about a week of one another.

I have been to Neiman-Marcus’ flagship store in Dallas, and let me tell you, it is worth the trip. I even did some shopping there, with real money and everything. Of course, I still felt like a regular goob, walking up and down the aisles and checking out price tags on neckties that cost as much as what I have paid for entire suits. OK, so they weren’t the best suits, and it was quite a while ago, but you get the idea. They have some expensive stuff there.

No neckties for sale at Lehman’s, of course, but they probably have the best mail-order selection of oil lamps, wood stoves and hand-cranked coffee grinders I have ever seen, and for way less than what you’d pay at Neiman-Marcus, if Neiman-Marcus suddenly decided to cater to the Anabaptist trade.

Lehman’s reminds me of Yoder’s Store, my favorite Amish-centric department store up in Shipshewana, although Yoder’s doesn’t have a Christmas catalog that I know of. I do know that once upon a time I thought Yoder’s was your one-stop Holiday Headquarters: salt and pepper shakers for Mom, an oil lamp for Vicky, gloves for P.D., a beanbag ashtray for Dad, coloring books for Amy. Call me Santa. The only place that rivaled Yoder’s for Christmas shopping was the hardware, where I got pretty much the same stuff, except I would substitute a hockey stick for PD’s gloves and some hardware store after-shave for Dad’s ashtray.

Anyway, back to the catalogs: They should trade places. Neiman-Marcus could sell a diamond-encrusted hand-cranked food mill, and Lehman’s could sell cast-iron jewelry.

If I buy anything by mail order, it’ll probably be from Lehman’s. I’m not Amish by a long shot, but their stuff suits me a lot better than what I find in Neiman-Marcus. I could use a new Dutch oven a lot more than I could use a $30,000 overnight stay in Philip Johnson’s glass house in Connecticut.

But the beautiful thing is, I can make that choice because I have these two wildly different catalogs offering their wares to me. I’m so thoroughly entertained that I don’t even mind that I am getting all this holiday fun so early.

So excuse me. I think I’ll do a little Christmas shopping.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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