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The Hideaway Shop

LANCASTER - The rise and fall of hemlines, the era of hip huggers and bell bottoms, the aberration that was fashion in the 1970s and the age of power suits all passed by Bobbie Pollardís dress shop on Main Street.

For more than 40 years, her Hideaway Shop has been where a genteel generation of women has shopped for its clothes. White gloves and summer hats may not be vogue again this year, but Pollard has them, just as sheís always had. She leaves provocative lingerie to trendy stores and continues to sell no-nonsense, stark white foundation garments in a staggering number of sizes.

Far from mall department stores and upscale boutiques, the Hideaway Shop is where youíd expect to see June Cleaver and Donna Reed scanning the racks, but not Ginger or even Marianne.

A holdout of bygone fashion year when women dressed for the market and for dinner, Pollardís store is also a relic of a time when there were elm trees along Main Street and other dress shops and shoe stores and soda fountains and haberdasheries.

But by the end of the summer, the Hideaway Shop will be gone, too.

``I thought I would leave before they have to take me of here with my toes up,`` said Pollard, who turned 84 last Sunday.

The pink `Going out of Business` signs - probably the only time neon has been associated with the shop - went up last month, to the surprise of just about everyone in town.

``Iíve been here 43 years,`` she said. ``I have a little health problem and Iím tired. I feel bad - Iím leaving some good customers, but itís time.``

A few days into her final sale earlier this month saw several women in her shop that morning and there was still a mighty collection of dresses and skirts and other accouterments of femininity to be had. Pollard, who stands just about a head above the racks, moved through the narrow aisles, in search of someone needing assistance. She helped to guide one fragile lady to the mirror in the back of the store, where she held three dresses up to her.

``That looks very pretty,`` she told her.

Two of the three dresses left the store. There are plenty left and Pollard hasnít even brought out the winter merchandise.

Half a lifetime ago, Pollard came to Lancaster by way of her native Ohio and Brattleboro, Vt. She spent some years in Vermont tailoring and spending evenings teaching adult education. Her late husband, Lisle, was a chef and the couple found their way to Lancaster, where Bobbie Pollard decided that her experience as a dressmaker and tailor was needed.

``No one ever thought Iíd make it here,`` she said. ``No one thought I could come to a country town and make it.``

It took time to build up her clientele and to expand her collection beyond the one rack with which she opened her business.

When her husband went to work for the Mountain View House in Whitefield, he sent business her way in the form of society matrons in need of a wardrobe suited to the grand hotel and its leisurely pursuits. She recalls one of her customers.

``A director from (the movie studio) MGM came up there and he liked it so well, that he and his wife decided to stay there,`` she said. ``His wife had no everyday clothes so she came down to me to outfit her. She bought three or four outfits and thatís when I saw my first $100 bill.``

For many summers after that, she was kept busy not only selling day and evening wear to out of towners, but also coaxing breathing room from the seams of gowns that became a smidgen too tight from the hearty food served up at the hotel.

She set herself apart from the other dress shops in town when the local Girl Scout troop approached her to put on a fashion show as a fundraiser.

``I said to the leader `Iím new. What about the other people in town,``` she recalled. ``They told me they wouldnít do it for them.``

While she did not have the inventory to put on a fashion show, Pollard took a drive to the garment district in Boston, armed with the measurements of her models, and bought an entire collection.

``I bought hats, gloves, coats, sportswear, jewelry,`` she said. ``The girls made enough money so they could take a trip to Canada with four chaperones.``

And not long after that, Pollard bought more dress racks.

There was a time when Pollard helped dress young ladies for their special occasions. At prom time, she would order one gown each from an assortment of vendors so no two girls would be wearing the same dress to the big event. But there came the time when fashions changed too fast to keep them happy.

``If you cater to teens, youíd go out of business,`` she said. ``You canít please the little darlings.``

Just about any girl who grew up in Lancaster has a story about accompanying her mother or grandmother to the shop.

``I remember squeezing down the aisles amid a bunch of plastic wrapped clothing items, wondering if this was my adult destiny for wardrobe options,`` recalls one young woman.

At the rear of the Hideaway, dozens and dozens of long dresses are hanging, wrapped in plastic. Thereís not as much demand for them, she said, but enough from mothers of the bride to members of the Order of the Eastern Star, who come in every year for formal gowns.
And when a gown outlived itself for a formal occasion, the owner brought it back so Pollard could give it new life.

``Iíd cut it off for tea length,`` she said, `` and use the extra material for a matching handbag.``

Indeed, such a dress bought from the Hideaway could be worn again.

Pollard keeps her own counsel about fashion, except on one subject.

``I canít stand women wearing blue jeans,`` she said. ``It took a long time for women to put pants on and now they donít want to put on a dress.``

There is something about Pollard that makes it comfortable to confront oneís bodily shortcomings. She can take a quick look at a woman and correctly ascertain dress and bra size.

``You can do that if youíve been doing it for 43 years,`` she says with a laugh.

A not so taut tummy? Pollard has just the thing to pull it in and she finds it with unerring accuracy from a dizzying collection of undies, girdles and brassieres that range from 34AA to 64DD.

And denial about oneís size is something she deals with subtlety.

``Iíve had women come in here who were a size 16 or an 18 trying to get into a 14,`` she said. ``I had a woman come in wearing a 20 or 22 and she left in a (size) 52. I do what they ask and then I go to the rack and bring them something and say `Now try this size.` They donít get upset.``

Despite owning her own dress shop, Pollard doesnít think sheís all that fashionable.

``I think I could dress better, but I like to fit other people. I donít care what I look like, as long as I look decent. As long as other people look good, thatís all I care about,`` she said.

Pollard has no plans yet for her retirement, but itís likely sheíll keep up with her civic and charitable roles. Sheís been a member of the Business and Professional Womenís Club for more than 50 years and every Christmas morning for the past 30 years, sheís played Santa Claus for residents of the Country Village Health Care Center.

``I need to finish here, first,`` she said, taking aim at customer who might just might need her help in picking out a dress.