By Carleton Varney Special To The Palm Beach Daily News
Museum gift shops around the world have always been a favorite of mine. After touring a museum show, I always always head toward the gift shop, where you almost always can be certain to find a mix of fabulous books, art pieces, glassware, ornaments and jewelry for purchase — and I’m usually a buyer.
In Palm Beach, the museum shop at the Flagler is a must-visit, and particularly so at holiday time. As I mentioned in this space last week, I was asked to decorate a Florida-themed holiday tree for the shop and enjoyed taking part in a book-signing there on Saturday.
Cassandra Van Cott became retail manager of the shop in May, and she has put her creative hand to work at merchandising the array of items for sale. Cassandra is New York born and was once a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue. Prior to her arrival in South Florida, she managed the museum shop at North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate in Ashville, so she knows what she’s about.
I always like to see how the merchandise in a museum shop reflects the current exhibitions on view in the galleries. In the Flagler’s case, the exhibition is “Inside Out: Women’s Fashion from Foundation to Silhouette,” which runs through Jan 5. The show features undergarment fashions from the corset days right up to today’s looks that might be welcomed by Lady Gaga.
And the items in the museum shop nicely nod at the undergarments show. In fact, if you are a Palm Beach woman of style, you’ll want to see the underpinnings Cassandra has in stock, including lingerie from Gilda and Pearl of London as well as camis by Kiki Montparnasse.
The museum shop, of course, has plenty of items unrelated to the exhibit. I was drawn to a collection of sea-inspired merchandise — shell-covered boxes, table appointments, napkin rings and pearls, pearls, pearls.
If you are looking for fashions for the home, take a look at the shawls in soft blues and greens.
You’ll also want to visit the book department, where a good selection of biographies of celebrity and political figures of our time are displayed. There also are art books; Gilded Age history books; Lilly Pulitzer books and equestrian books. What great gifts books are, even in our digitally focused age.
And unlike many museums, the Flagler doesn’t require shoppers to pay the museum’s admission charge. The museum is at 1 Whitehall Way, and you can get more information about the shop by calling 561-655-2833.
All profits received from sales go to the foundation that maintains the museum, which honors the legacy of the man who built it, railroad-and-hotel magnate Henry M. Flagler. His resorts, of course, turned Palm Beach into the premier winter destination of America’s Gilded Age society some 125 years ago.
One more note: The museum’s Café des Beaux-Arts opens today for the winter season, with Cassandra as manager. The prix-fixe afternoon tea service includes six savory treats and six sweets. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; and noon-3 p.m. Sunday.
The holidays are upon us, and visit to the Flagler Museum’s shop may just help you check a few items off your gift lists.