Remember Special Moments by Maureen Mertens
Liz Dietzel’s Whitefish Bay’s Fashions at Large no longer exists. It’s been gone for years.
But Liz Dietzel, local merchant, would have loved Whitefish Bay’s Christmas Walk, even though it wouldn’t walk far enough west to have reached her shop located on the corner of Silver Spring and Lydell.
Fashions at Large specialized in sportswear for larger women, even though Liz herself wore a size 6.
“Baby,” she said to her daughter, “I’ve never weighed over 110 pounds in my life.”
“Baby,” knew she might have weighed a bit more, once or twice in her life but, regardless, Liz was never big but served women who were.
Liz loved retailing more than anything – in some ways it was the most important thing in her life and her daughter understood that and in many ways it made her feel safe.
She started her career in retailing at Stix Bear and Fuller in St. Louis during the depression of the thirties. Back then she said her name was Elizabeth Renard, said she was unmarried, because married women were usually not hired since it was assumed their husbands had jobs and to be fair only one person in a family should have a job.
After she and her family moved to Milwaukee, she worked as an assistant buyer and then a buyer at Boston Store, and as a buyer at T. A. Chapman’s and Kohl’s Department Store. In fact, she was one of the original buyers at Kohl’s and helped bring in popular brand-named merchandize because of her fine reputation in the market.
And as it is in life, sometimes her mother was treated unfairly by the people she worked for and when that happened she told her daughter, “It’s just business, Baby. Just business.”
When Baby was about 6 years old she awoke to one of those warm sunny days in January and called, “Mommy, look” pointing out the dining room window. “Look the snow is melting.”
Her mother leaned over and Baby remembers the look on her face – a terrible frown. “Damn,” her mother said. “This will be hell for business, Baby.”
Liz Dietzel opened her own store, Fashions at Large, when she was in her 60s and she loved every day of it.
Yes, Liz would have loved the Christmas Walk because it’s a community thing and supports local trades people. “We have to support the local merchants,” she’d say. “Not only because they are our neighbors and friends, but because they are our economy.”
Liz Dietzel died in 1985 and is missed everyday by her daughter and even a bit more during the holidays.
So this Christmas, all of you who are fortunate enough to be with your family, take a special look at them, hold the moment, lock it into your head and heart so that someday when things are different, you’ll be able to remember today.
Liz Dietzel, who taught her daughter that warm days in January can be “ hell for business,” also taught her about integrity, honor and love. She was a wonderful, beautiful woman. She was my mother.