Recommended by a friend in New York, I got a call from Geraldine Stutz. Geraldine was a legend in retailing and had owned Henri Bendel's, an innovative department store just off Fifth Avenue. She was on the board of several famous retailers and GUMP'S had asked her to oversee their move 2 blocks down to new quarters in San Francisco.
Thus began my 5 month adventure.
I met Geraldine first thing Monday morning, she needed a design for a light fixture over the stairs . I sketched not one but half a dozen lanterns for the central courtyard. She wanted them all. I also asked questions, why use institutional looking bronze handrails for a home furnishing store? Where are tired shoppers going to sit? What happened to all the Chinoiserie paneling that made the old Gump's so mysterious? Many of these questions arrived just in time.
Supports had to be bolted thru the third floor to support the new lanterns, the order for bronze handrails had to be cancelled and new ones designed. The famed Buddha, in its place of honor, needed a raised base to be visible. Free standing cases had to be designed. Then there was the already installed tan travertine floor. I pointed out that tan travertine was used in every chain department store across America and three stores on our same block. Staining it did not work. Finally, I asked the stone contractor if he had any scrap in his yard? I found remnants from every recent stone clad high-rise in San Francisco and laid those out as wide spaced steppingstones. Suddenly the tan travertine disappeared.
One of the last things to be installed was the huge Imperial lantern. I stood next to Geraldine as it was raised into place. She whispered to me, "it could have been bigger" I said "yes but we are the only ones who will think so."