Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Christine DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

Harriett's Closet Warehouse sale of the century, Nov. 7 - 21


Harriett Lake in various ensembles over the years, with her large glasses and without; and even a fur-lined jacket, sans hat.

When Harriett Lake arrives at an event, everyone in the room knows. In her fashionista style, she is (Hello) Dolly Levi, Cher, Lady Gaga and Elton John all rolled into one. From the top of her hat-covered head to the tips of her designer shoe-clad toes, she is always impeccably dressed "to a (second) t"-like her name. In fact, the only thing that tops her fashionable wardrobe is her extremely generous spirit. Both she and her late husband, Hy, have given financially to many Jewish organizations, including Kinneret, JFS Orlando, and the Holocaust Center, as well as the Orlando ballet, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Now 92 years old, Harriett has decided it is time to part with many of her beloved ensembles and accessories and give the proceeds to The Orlando Ballet and a boutique for cancer survivors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"I have a new outlook on life... or death," said the always straight-forward nonagenarian. "I'm not going to be around and the clothes are just hanging there."

Hanging there in her Closet. The famous Closet. Back in the 1990s, Harriett graciously opened her Closet to Rishona-Masada Haddassah for their annual Beautiful Tour of Homes fundraiser. The Closet was the talk of the town-900-square-feet with a 10-foot ceiling that housed a conveyor rack that would be the envy of any dry-cleaning establishment.

Alas, Harriett eventually outgrew the Closet and converted her 4-car garage into a pink-carpeted closet that housed 4,500 hanging items, 1,600 hats and more than 450 pairs of shoes.

"When I started to put things into the bathtub, that's when Shelley [her daughter] said it's time for a warehouse," Harriett quipped.

Shelley Lake bought the warehouse at 902 Waterway Place, Longwood, in the Big Tree Industrial Park and it is here where Harriett's Closet Sale will be held. There are 4,000 hanging items, hundreds of hats, scarves, jewelry and shoes featuring labels from Bill Blass, Chanel, Escada, Feraud, Oscar de la Renta and Victor Costa, as well as items from Target, Banana Republic and Ross-with prices from $5 to "priceless."

"The items are mostly one-size fits all, from casual to glamorous gowns dating from the 1960s on up," said Harriett.

Growing up in Lebanon, Pa., Harriett was a child of the Great Depression. She often wore hand-me-downs from neighbors who lived across the street.

"It was my first contact with quality clothes," said Harriett. "The two girls' grandmother ran a Red Light District and she would buy high-style clothes from New York every season-fur coats, grey flannel suits. I mean they were drop-dead-call-out-the-cops gorgeous these clothes. So between the Depression and hand-me-downs I was finding beautiful things to wear!"

Harriett freely admits she is addicted to clothes, and highly recommends shopping as the way to beat depression.

"It's a good thing you married Hy," this reporter said to her.

(Laughing) Harriett answered, "Yes, I moved to Miami in 1948 searching for a husband. I found him. He was so poor I almost didn't marry him. But you just never know what tomorrow will bring. Life's an adventure."

Harriett's Closet Warehouse Sale presented by Tuni on Park Avenue and her team will hold a grand opening on Nov. 7 from 3 - 9 p.m. and will then be open from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. every day except Mondays. Couvert $10.


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