What’s in a JAR?

At Todd Richesin Interiors, customer service is always a top priority. I try my best to go above and beyond what a client wants to make them happy. As my typical client relationship evolves more into friendship, it is easy for me to do that.

Recently, a client heard I was headed to New York to view the Christmas windows. She loves anything carnation, and had heard of a parfum at Bergdorf Goodman by Joel Rosenthal called JAR. He allegedly had a fragrance that hinted of carnation….although the sales associate would not divulge any of the secret ingredients via telephone. He was haughty and made it clear that one had to “experience” JAR in either Paris or New York. Since Knoxville is near neither, she asked me to stop by Bergdorf and check it out, since our hotel was practically next door.

Upon entering Bergdorf, we inquired with the first available sales associate about JAR. We were immediately whisked by not one but two sales people from the entry level down to cosmetics. They gently nudged other shoppers out of our way to make us feel most important on our mission. We passed all the standard fragrances, and as we went deeper into to the catacombs of Bergdorf’s perfume department; the clothes on the shoppers became more rare, and the scents increasingly expensive. I searched years for a cologne that smelled good on me. I smelled many that were good on a card or in the air, but they never were quite the same on my skin. Finally, I discovered the fabulous French house of Creed. Up until this experience, I considered it to be pricey….sublime, but pricey. Rare too, since Nieman Marcus is the only place I know it can be had. Well, we left the Creed counter in a cloud of lint from Prada sweaters on the way to the JAR boutique. In the deepest depths of Bergdof lay the illusive alcove named JAR.

You entered from the well lit store into a tiny room illuminated only by hidden spot lights that shone on a pair of gilded Louis XVI style console tables. The entire space was swathed in pale purple cotton velvet. On the oval back French chairs where one sits for the JAR experience, the velvet was the same, but gently worn. The fine wool carpet was of the same shade, as were the beautiful chair, base, door, and crown moldings. On the ceiling was painted an ominous sky with a lighting bolt piercing across it. Quite dramatic, if I do say so. Since there were only two tables, only two people can have the JAR experience at a time. It was me in my jeans, and what appeared to be a witch who was sitting in full black dress at the other table. From a tiny portal emerged an impeccably dressed man in a dark suit whose tie, pocket square, and shirt were the exact shade of purple as the walls. I am fairly certain that in order to be a JAR representative, you must look good in grape. Not knowing what I had gotten into, I requested a bottle of the perfume that smells like carnations. It became immediately clear that the scents would not be divulged. The nice man suggested I smell each of the fragrances to determine which one was what I sought. He then emerged from the tiny portal with a silver tray containing what appeared to be six specimen dishes with clear glass lids. In each one was a black cloth. One by one he opened them and dramatically wafted the dish around the table top and then lifted it to my nose. I was less than impressed with the scents themselves. To me, they were stump water, wet dirt, and other things one would assume would be in Granny Clampet’s pantry. The last one was Galconda. I had struck gold. It was totally carnation…..although the sales associate would never divulge it. I said that was it, and I would like a bottle. $500 later, I emerged with a tiny one ounce flacon in a purple velvet pouch, and a box so big it scarcely made it into the overhead bin on the plane home.

I consider myself to be somewhat well traveled and aware of the finer things in life, but I have never seen so much pageantry associated with such a tiny array of products. Only six scents….only two customers at a time….only in New York or Paris. The most similar experience I can think of where so much drama is associated with products is at the 16th century Santa Maria Novella pharmacie in Florence, Italy, where monks still make the products and you buy them from what I am certain was the inspiration for Hogwarts castle in Harry Potter. Well, all I can say is, whatever it takes to make a client happy. That is what I want to do. My client was ecstatic. She could tell no one how much she spent on perfume, and a month later, she lost the tiny bottle in a hotel room. Oh well, I did my part, and when my New York faux finisher Timothy Brown returns to Knoxville to work for me next week, he is having the JAR experience, and bringing her another bottle of the elusive scent.