By  on March 21, 2007

NEW YORK — Fashion and retail executives, customers, friends and family bid farewell to luxury retailer Janet Brown during a memorial service Tuesday in which she was remembered as a bold, singular personality.

The standing-room-only crowd included New Jersey Gov. Jon Cor­zine, Bergdorf Goodman president Jim Gold, Lincoln Center Theater creative director Andre Bishop and socialite and handbag designer CeCe Cord. There were so many people that some viewed the proceeding at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home here on video monitors.

Brown, whose 900-square-foot store in Port Washington, N.Y., exerted enormous influence on a wealthy, discreet clientele, died on Friday after suffering a heart attack driving to work from her home in Oyster Bay, N.Y. She was 59.

"I'm saddened and a bit shocked," Corzine said. "I anticipated many more good times and many more memories."

Corzine, who traveled with Brown in "Paris, Capri, the South of France, St. Barth's and the Hamptons, places governors usually don't go," recalled "chatting [with Janet] well beyond the midnight hour about such disparate topics as the merits of sweater vests, what was hot and what was not on Wall Street and the distinct character of fine Bordeaux."

Customers went to Brown's namesake boutique to buy her taste, an appealing understated chic. Among the first retailers in the U.S. to support directional collections such as Jil Sander and Marni, she was unfailingly loyal to designers she championed.

"I enjoy being small because I can devote a great deal of time and passion to what I'm doing," Brown told WWD in the early Nineties.

Brown, who had a larger-than-life personality, could by turns be charming, kind, loud and wickedly funny. "Janet was talented and full of spirit," Corzine said. "She was naughty, but almost always nice."

Jon Garber Neidich, the son of Brooke Garber Neidich, one of Brown's longtime clients and a close friend, described being seated next to Brown at a dinner party. "There was no place for political correctness," he said. "At times it was almost brutal. Janet wasn't exactly PG-13. Janet always said something that made you blush and keel over with laughter. You would fall into bitter hysterics."

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