by Jeremy Jones
It was a happening scene that looked more like Black Friday at the mall than a lazy, hazy summer shopping day in Lafayette Hill.
At 418 Germantown Pike, Down 2 Earth’s wildly popular end-of-season Bin Sale (70-80% off thru mid-August) was in full force. Moms were on their knees combing through bins to find end-of-season clothing bargains for their kids, and it was also Visiting Day at many overnight summer camps in our region.
A small army of sales associates did their best to keep up with the pace while jumping in and out of the gift-wrap assembly line. Pieces of shredded newspaper used for making bows flew through the air like ticker tape at a parade.
“Visiting Day is our summer Christmas,” said Down 2 Earth creator and owner Pam Katz, as she readied orders which included a Joy Joy! watch, an Alpha Loom, a chocolate-covered marshmallow Yummy pillow, a fortune bracelet, Color War gear, packets of Sushi Candy and a hand painted, personalized Shopkins box. “I become a 2-year-old when I’m searching for the right must-have product for Visiting Day.”
But this is no surprise. Katz is known in the Philadelphia fashion and retail industry for not only finding the right must-haves; the hottest trending clothes, accessories and gifts are available in her stores before customers even realize they want them. And then, shazam!
“Pam is right on the cusp of what’s happening,” said Philadelphia Inquirer fashion columnist Elizabeth Wellington when I spoke with her to learn more about the Katz magic. “She always knows what women want to wear and how to wear it; from child to mom to grandmom. Her eye expands generations. She hits everybody’s sweet spot.”
Born and raised in Mt. Airy and a graduate of Girls’ High, Katz inherited her creative eye and passion for the clothing business from her father who was a clothing manufacturer.
In 1972, Katz was a member of the executive trainee team that opened the first Bloomingdales in Philadelphia.
She and her husband Michael moved to Lafayette Hill, and in 1985, while raising their two daughters, Erica and Melissa, Katz opened First Impressions, an upscale, contemporary women’s clothing store located at 470 Germantown Pike. First Impressions consistently appears on PHL17’s Philly Hotlist for Best Women’s Boutique.
Ten years later, Katz opened Down 2 Earth in Manayunk. “It was basically an environmentally correct department store. It was ahead of its time,” said Katz.
When the baby and toddler department exceeded sales expectations, Katz opened Down 2 Earth Kids a few blocks away, and brought daughter Erica on as partner.
In 2004, Katz closed the Manayunk stores and opened Down 2 Earth Kids in Lafayette Hill. Within a year, she added new inventory for the preteen age range (7-13).
Four years ago Katz’s retail genius genes kicked in big-time. She acquired the vacant space next door, took down the wall and created space for a juniors’ line; clothing and accessories for girls ages 14-20, sizes 0-13.
“It’s a tough age for the young junior whose body and emotions are changing,” said Katz. “She doesn’t want to look like a baby, she wants to look hipper. She wants what her girlfriend has and she wants to look cool but not sexy.”
So, in a signature way, Down 2 Earth specializes in clothing and accessories exclusively for the infant, toddler, preteen and junior markets.
“Nobody does this on this side of the river,” said Katz. And yet customers cross that river from the Main Line and beyond because they see this Best of Philly award-winner as their one-of-a-kind source.
Amid the happy chaos, I spoke with sales associate, Holly Alten, about the preteen or junior customer who may be overweight or difficult to fit. Alten showed me some great wardrobe solutions for just such a situation.
“It’s all about dressing for your body,” she said. “Making the girls feel good about themselves makes me feel good.”
So what’s trending at Down 2 Earth as we transition to fall and head back to the classroom and the dorm?
Preteens are “emoji”-driven and want smiley-face graphics on T shirts, leggings and jean jackets. They are also very into Starbucks beverage logos on clothing.
Juniors are all about ripped jeans and flannel plaid tops which can be worn in a funky or classic look. “What we’re hoping will trend with the junior is the flair leg,” said Katz.
For private-school girls who wear a uniform, Down 2 Earth carries leggings in all sizes and colors, as well as button-down shirts.
Dresses for special occasions, dance bags, overnight bags, lunch boxes, back packs and school bags are all on deck as are designs by Malibu Sugar, Vintage Havana, So Nikki and Flying Monkey.
Down 2 Earth’s infant and toddler department is a world unto itself; another reflection of the artistry of Pam Katz and her talent for hitting the “sweet spot.”