This week, Bag Lady isn’t sure where to start, so let’s be most practical about it and begin at the beginning and end at the end.*

*Apologies, maybe, to Lewis Carroll? I promise there will be no shopping for Cheshire cats today. Probably.

So, picture it! Lewiston, 2006, two intrepid shoppers, one editor brave enough to sanction a weekly retail foray.

Bag Lady: Paid to shop? I mean, that IS Bliss.

Good-Buy Girl: It was an exciting time! The Auburn Mall had been placed on deadmalls.com and we recreational retailers were feeling somewhat bereft. Then suddenly there was a boom in retail offerings! Almost overnight there was a Kohl’s, Steve and Barry’s (everything under $20!) and the arrival of Starbucks was front-page news. Of course the SJ editors had the foresight to OK a column based on exploring these new (and some old standby) retail offerings. Let the quest begin!

BL: OMG Steve and Barry’s — I’d completely forgotten about them! And now I’m thinking, did I ever score anything there? . . . In those early years, so many of those “best finds” were things we actually bought. Did we necessarily need them? Um, maybe, maybe not.

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One of Good-Buy Girl’s favorite Bliss finds.

GBG: In my closet I have the most adorable purse I used only once. But it was sublime — champagne satin with subtle beading, a rigid Kelly handbag handle. I felt like a million bucks the one time I had an appropriate occasion to use it. And someday, God willing, there will be grandchildren who can use it to play dress-up, further validating the $18 I paid for it at a specialty women’s boutique in Auburn that, I fear, succumbed to the ravages of the 2008 recession.

BL: It’s been challenging all these years to head into boutiques and the like and shop anonymously. Until cellphones came around and we could send ourselves texts, it used to be SO hard to scribble down prices onto a palmed sheet of paper surreptitiously, without looking like we were trying to case the place. I’m floored we were never called out mid-shop.

GBG: I know. And there were some places we visited that were novel, to say the least. Midnight Boutique? There were some “novelties”  there I’d never seen before. The challenge was writing about them in a way that would pass muster in a family-oriented daily newspaper. I’m pretty sure we saw our editor blush as he edited that one.

BL: HA! And now I’m trying to think if I bought anything there …

GBG: We were privileged to bring such a wide array of retail temptations to our readers. I hated leaving Bliss behind when I left L-A, but was delighted to see Shopping Siren pick up the ball and run with it.

BL: Shopping delights, both of you. Funny, given your handle, but you can steer me toward a well-priced splurge like none other, while Shopping Siren practices an admirable level of fiscal restraint that I strive to mirror. And you both love chai and garlic knots, so win-win-win. Getting to write the column with you both has always been one of the highlights of my week.

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GBG: You, though, Bag Lady, deserve all the credit.

Your idea, your steady hand at the till, your deft and humorous writing, your amazing commitment to a column that has survived 16 years! I can’t tell you how many readers would tell me (unaware they were talking to Good-Buy Girl) that it was the first thing they read in the paper the day it came out.

You deserve a bust in the Retail Hall of Fame.

And we can find just the right accessories if we head over to Republic Gold & Jewelry. Meet you there.

BL: Aww, thank you. It wouldn’t have been possible without amazing partners, including that brave editor.

And so this, dear readers, is where we end at, well, the end. Our last Bliss column.

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It’s been a challenging few years to find the right mix of humor and levity amidst all the global chaos — it’s a bit of silly fun to celebrate fabulous deals on scallops, fighting off basement snakes and buying Joe Exotic prisoner art in the best of times, but throw in a deadly, will-it-ever-end pandemic and that’s a gloomy reality mountain to climb. We’ve tried to approach Bliss in the last two years as a small forum to escape.

It’s also been harder to shop in person for the same reason, and I’ve appreciated your rolling with more tales of Mr. Bag Lady, Bag Dog and Bag Cat, who are an unendingly tale-worthy, and awesome, lot.

Over the course of 16 years, we’ve written about buttered cats. Christmas goats. Edamame. “Love Island” (maybe too many times). Quirky tent sales selling official (and obscene) Dirty Dominoes. Shopping for puffer jackets and Christmas clearance at Kmart (R.I.P.!) Grabbing Zumba gear at Sears and Fashion Bug. (Geez, double-R.I.P.!)

A most random leather chaps sale at Marden’s.*

* Note that Marden’s is being mentioned in hushed tones — nothing bad can happen to them, please.

Frankly, it would be hard to top all of that.

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(Also, I count 32 pages of archived Bliss at sunjournal.com going back to 2009 — dip in at random for a laugh or a scowl at the frivolity, whatever suits your mood. But don’t look for an explanation of why it took so long for L-A to get an Olive Garden – that remains a frustrating mystery.)

Writing this has been such a joy, and a sincere thanks goes to YOU, our readers, for that. It feels like a natural time for Bag Lady to pack her bags, but not before all three of us get a chance to say that we hope you find your Bliss in whatever you do.

Editor’s note: Together again, Bag Lady and Good-Buy Girl were last seen scouring for bargains in the mark-down bins at Marden’s. They have since vanished, but we are hopeful they will reappear someday, receipts in hand with expressions of pure Bliss on their faces.

Bag Lady’s true identity is protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who are doubling up on sweaters for the weekend storm) and the customer service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach her editor at [email protected]


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