Although Garfinckel's will end 85 years of Washington retailing when it closes its doors at the end of business today, its bankruptcy process isn't over.
There still are leases to sell, claims for bankruptcy attorneys to file and, even in August, furs to transfer.
Yesterday, the fight in the District's bankruptcy court was over the furs and who has access to them.
Mystique Furs Ltd. of New York, which had a contract with the store to handle the cleaning, repairing and storing of furs for Garfinckel's customers, had applied to the court on an emergency basis to get store officials to unlock the huge vault where furs were stored in Garfinckel's sub-basement at its flagship 14th and F Street NW store.
"Customers are coming to Garfinckel's in droves to get their furs," said Jeff Bromme, an attorney for Mystique and its owner Philip Reiner. "We wanted to provide them to them."
But Garfinckel's sources noted that the rush to get coats is a bit hard to understand in the waning, muggy days of August.
One woman actually came to a Garfinckel's executive and told him she needed her coat because she wanted to wear it. To which he responded: "Get real, lady."
Garfinckel's bankruptcy attorneys yesterday argued that store officials had locked the vault and put on extra security because Reiner had threatened to take the furs out of the vault to be sure he could get paid by the coats' owners for the work he had done.
"Mr. Reiner knows the party is over," said Stephen Leach, Garfinckel's attorney.
"Mr. Reiner views this as his business. It's a long-standing Garfinckel's business," said Leach, pointing out that Reiner was simply a licensee of the store.
Garfinckel's has entered into an agreement to sell its fur storage business to Woodward & Lothrop for at least $100,000 and, if the agreement is approved by the bankruptcy court, the 3,000 to 3,500 furs remaining in its vault will be inventoried and moved to Woodies after Sept. 10.
Woodies will notify fur owners of how they can store their furs or retrieve them.
Judge S. Martin Teel Jr. yesterday ruled that Garfinckel's need not open its vault to Reiner or those who have their furs stored at the store.
He added that Mystique still would have the right to collect its fees for coats it had repaired or stored.
But the fight may not be over. The fur may fly again next week, when Teel hears arguments on whether Garfinckel's can sell the fur storage business to Woodies.
Sniffed Bromme: "We don't care about the old coats. ... We just want to make sure that what we've done is rewarded."