NEW YORK — Bloomingdale's beauty department closed a chapter of its history this week, when it bid farewell to Pat Ennis, who is retiring after a 33-year career at the retailer. And on Wednesday night, a number of industry heavyweights gathered to send Ennis off in style at the flagship's Le Train Bleu restaurant.
Ennis drew laughs when she noted that when she joined Bloomingdale's in July 1972, she left another job in which she had an expense account, a company car and a higher salary. "Mike Blumenfeld got me here," she said. She added that her son, Peter, tried Wednesday to take care of the car: "He ordered a limousine, thinking today was my last day," she said. "But I'm here until Friday!"
Ennis first served as a department manager at Bloomingdale's Fresh Meadows store. Four years later, she became a fragrance buyer for private label brands in the retailer's central office. In the Eighties, Ennis developed Bloomingdale's cosmetics business in the Metro region as regional manager of stores, opening new Bloomingdale's doors in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. In 1991, Ennis returned to the buying office as a cosmetics buyer. "When we opened Chicago," Ennis recalled, "we were staying at the Drake Hotel. The next day, it was announced that Bloomingdale's had gone bankrupt. Then we moved to the Days Inn."
She recalled another instance in which a goody-bag snafu had angered a guest at a Bloomingdale's event. "We had about 6,000 goody bags that were all wrapped beautifully [at a Queens warehouse]. One person opened theirs, and there was no product inside — just a note that must have been put in at the factory where they were assembled, which read ‘F--k you, you get nothing.'"
In addition to giving flowers and profuse apologies to the customer, Ennis and her team had to unwrap all 6,000 bags, "not knowing if that was the only one that had that."
While Ennis' sense of humor kept the laughs coming, the evening was bittersweet for many of her colleagues. "Pat has been a beloved and dedicated member of the Bloomingdale's family for over 33 years," said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale's. "While we are thrilled for her as she embarks on her next journey in life, we are sad to see her leave. She has left us a legacy. She will always be a friend."Christina Casey, Ennis' assistant, read a poem called "To My Mentor," which she had written about Ennis. Barely holding back tears, Casey told the crowd, "She means more to me than she'll ever know."
Many in the room seconded that sentiment. "She has been an amazing supporter," said Bobbi Brown, chief executive of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Worldwide, noting that Ennis was one of the early retailers to stock her brand, bringing it into Bloomingdale's in 1996. "She's like a family member."
Knowing Ennis' love for red lipstick, Brown — who has been "working out of an L.L. Bean tote bag" since her offices were burned in a building fire in SoHo last weekend — presented Ennis with a customized lipstick palette. So great is her regard for Ennis that Brown included competing brands in the gift, sheepishly admitting that few shades in her line are a bright enough red for Ennis' taste: "This one is Dior's Dolce Vita and this one's Chanel's Shanghai Red," she said to laughter from the crowd.
Eric Horowitz, president of the Clarins brand division of Clarins Groupe USA, said he'll miss his weekly brand updates with Ennis: "We've had 20 years of Monday morning calls," said Horowitz. "We've gone a few rounds, but we're very fond of each other. She's been terrific. This is bittersweet."
Ennis' position has not yet been filled. "Whoever takes it over will have very big shoes to fill," said Howard Kreitzman, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics and fragrances for Bloomingdale's.
For her part, Ennis knows exactly what her first order of business is: spending more time with her family, including her four grandchildren. She's also planning "a lot of traveling, perhaps some consulting and a lot of fun."
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