To each his own catalogue

Ordinarily, I get all bent out of shape about Christmas catalogs arriving in my mailbox before Halloween. I am willing, however, to make exceptions for two retailers: Neiman-Marcus and Lehman’s.

Neiman-Marcus, of course, is the high-end retailer known for high fashion with prices to match, with a catalog that always includes a fantasy section full of gift ideas just perfect for the “gazillionaire” who has everything. This year, for example, you can pick up an outdoor entertainment center with 201-inch screen and 7.1 digital surround sound for a cool $1,500,000 (excluding shipping and handling).

Lehman’s is the Kidron, Ohio, purveyor of the practical, with a catalog that caters to the Amish and other plain folks. For example, you can pick up what appears to be the Cadillac of cider presses for $1,495 plus $175.00 freight.

I love the idea that I could get catalogs from two such different retailers in the same month – actually, within about a week of one another.

I have been to Neiman-Marcus’ flagship store in Dallas and let me tell you, it is worth the trip. I even did some shopping there, with real money and everything. Of course, I still felt like a regular goob, walking up and down the aisles and checking out price tags on neckties that cost as much as what I have paid for entire suits. OK, so they weren’t the best suits and it was quite a while ago, but you get the idea. They have some expensive stuff there.

No neckties for sale at Lehman’s, of course, but they probably have the best mail-order selection of oil lamps, wood stoves and hand-cranked coffee grinders I have ever seen, and for way less than what you’d pay at Neiman-Marcus, if Neiman-Marcus suddenly decided to cater to the Anabaptist trade.

Lehman’s reminds me of Yoder’s Store, my favorite Amish-centric department store up in Shipshewana, although Yoder’s doesn’t have a Christmas catalog that I know of. I do know that once upon a time I thought Yoder’s was your one-stop holiday headquarters: salt and pepper shakers for Mom, an oil lamp for Vicky, gloves for P.D., a beanbag ashtray for Dad, coloring books for Amy. Call me Santa. The only place that rivaled Yoder’s for Christmas shopping was the hardware, where I got pretty much the same stuff, except I would substitute a hockey stick for PD’s gloves and some hardware store after-shave for Dad’s ashtray.

Anyway, back to the catalogs. They should trade places. Neiman-Marcus could sell a diamond-encrusted hand-cranked food mill, and Lehman’s could sell cast-iron jewelry.

If I buy anything by mail order, it’ll probably be from Lehman’s. I’m not Amish by a long shot but their stuff suits me a lot better than what I find in Neiman-Marcus. I could use a new Dutch oven a lot more than I could use a $30,000 overnight stay in Philip Johnson’s glass house in Connecticut.

The beautiful thing is, I can make that choice because I have these two wildly different catalogs offering their wares to me. I’m so thoroughly entertained that I don’t even mind that I am getting all this holiday fun so early. Excuse me – I think I’ll do a little Christmas shopping.