In the seven years that Ellis Simon has been manager of the Jewish Homes for the Aging Thrift Shop in Reseda, he has learned a lot about used menswear, women's wear, crystal, china, baby wear, lamps, furniture and other items donated to the shop for the benefit of the homes.
He has also become an authority on women's undergarments--the kind with the cloth missing from the middle of the panties and the middle of the bras.
"Frederick's of Hollywood is one of our strongest supporters," Simon said with a broad grin.
"About four times a year, they send us a huge shipment from their current catalogue. We get frilly bras and panties, those one-piece garments they call teddies, slips, nightgowns, men's and women's G-strings, and some samples of their men's and women's clothing lines," Simon said.
He said the shop, which annually raises about $50,000 for the homes, has other corporate donors, but that Frederick's is one of the largest.
Simon said many young women come in to shop for used blue jeans, suede jackets and other donated goods, and come upon the Frederick's things accidentally. "They start going down the rack, holding up one thing and then the next, and sort of peek over at me to see if I know these things are there," Simon said with a laugh.
Once they learn that these are regular items in this shop, they come back often, he said.
"I think one young woman tells another, and the word of mouth is what brings people in," said Mamie Wurzel, volunteer assistant manager. "The prices are right because I mark everything down about 50%."
Wurzel picks out a few items, such as crotchless panties and holey brassieres, that she says are big sellers. She then holds up a small piece of leather with straps and brass studs on it. "Sometimes we're not exactly sure what everything is."
She's not the only one.
"We're always getting people coming up to the counter saying the goods are damaged or incomplete," Simon said of the minimalist underwear. "I'm always having to explain that that was the way the things were designed."
Sometimes they ask why, and he has a number of answers.
"Please don't forget to mention that you get 10% off if you model the Frederick's things before you buy them," the manager said, twirling an imaginary mustache.
"I've never had anyone take me up on the offer, but there's a first time for everything."
Sending a Message
Ernie Martin is another person who believes in doing what he can, only in his case it's getting mail to the troops of Desert Storm.
Martin is a veteran of World War II, a martial arts instructor, world traveler, established artist, screenwriter and published author.
He is now a greeting card publisher.
Martin has created a number of handsome cards--all with patriotic motifs--that people may purchase from his stand on the lower floor of Topanga Plaza. If you don't know anyone serving in the Middle East, but it would make you feel better to send a card to someone, he has arranged with the local military services to have the cards shipped to men and women serving in the Gulf.
For children, he has set out two tables, with crayons and paper, so they can create cards and write their own messages.
He also has American flags, pins, yellow ribbons, bumper stickers and other items showing support for the troops.
Lyn Starrman, who mans the card stand, said the response has been good.
"People seem to be so happy that we are here. They buy cards and encourage their children to make one. It gives people a way to personally communicate with people over there, to say that they are thinking of them and supporting them."
Here Comes the Dog
Jim Ferris bought the old market at 28912 Riverside Drive in Agoura two years ago, giving it new life as a banquet facility and himself a few bad moments, as well as laughs.
The Canyon Club, as it is now known, has four banquet rooms that hold 50 to 500 people each. There is the Oak Room, the Blue Room, the Garden Room and the Grand Ballroom.
Many local organizations hold events here, but Ferris is partial to weddings.
"I figure we've had about 1,000 receptions since we opened, and everyone enjoys them because they are so upbeat," Ferris said.
"There was the time the bride didn't show up to walk down the aisle, and we finally found her in the bathroom having a cigarette and second thoughts. She finally went through with it, though," he said.
Another time, after a lot of money and time had been spent on an elaborate reception, the bridegroom called up and said he wasn't interested in getting married after all, but that everyone should enjoy the party anyway, Ferris said.
Perhaps the most unusual wedding was the one in which the bride's dog was the ring bearer.
"The bride had the usual maid of honor and all that, but when it was time for the couple to exchange rings, we let the dog loose down the aisle and he carried a pillow in his mouth with the rings on it," Ferris said.