In 20 Years, the Daffy’s Magic Never Failed Me

Where will I go when I can no longer hunt for bargain deals on Chestnut?

The news that Daffy’s would close on September 30th hit me hard. It feels like something bigger than the closing of a department store; it feels like I will have to find a new way to live.

Daffy’s has been a part of my life since it opened, a place of refuge, a place for magic, a place of bargains, sure, but so much more. So many moments, both large and small, are marked for me in some way by a trip to Daffy’s.

I truly remember my first visit. When I realized the store was multiple floors, that half of one floor was dedicated to shoes, I began to shake. I had been out for hours already and had only popped in to see what the place was like. Two hours later, I crawled out, exhausted, bleary-eyed, and heavily packaged.

Over the past 20 years, Daffy’s magic never failed me. To allow Daffy’s mojo to work, you have to give it time and space. Generally, I would envision what I wanted: a butter yellow, buttery soft cross-body bag, let’s say, and then go to Daffy’s. This thinking into being would work, and the purse (or gray riding boots or a blue trench coat or a black crochet sweater) would be waiting when I got there—not that I didn’t have to slowly, slowly look for them, which is part of the Daffy’s ritual.

When my husband passed away, friends and acquaintances all had strong suggestions of therapists I should see. I considered taking the recommendation from my most well-adjusted friend. I ended up choosing based on which therapist was closest to Daffy’s, thinking if the therapy didn’t help, the shopping might. Getting lost in the racks at Daffy’s did help; I could be anonymous and all that mattered, for half an hour or so, was whether the French off-the-shoulder silk knit top would work with the blue gabardine skirt.

A friend and I who don’t get to see each other enough developed a tradition: Get liquored up on cheap drinks and atmosphere at Oscar’s and then go buy boots at Daffy’s. Even these inebriated purchases caused no regrets. I don’t know what we’ll do now, and I hope we can keep up our relationship.

Daffy’s holds so many memories: My oldest daughter bought her prom dress there. We knew it was the right one when I cried when she put on. I was (and am) so happy to have a daughter who had no qualms about wearing a $29.99 gorgeous dress, while her friends wore $299 ones. I overheard her telling people how much we paid at the pre-prom photo-op, and I was so proud.

When I first started teaching at Drexel, I chose a sofa for my office from the warehouse of used furniture on campus. The couch is pinks and purples, with a ’90s kind of marbelization and swirl of colors; it’s ugly. I sat at my desk one day looking at that couch, grateful to have it, but still wishing it blended better with my bright blue walls (“transcendent blue,” to be exact—I chose it for the name as much as the color). Then it struck me: Daffy’s. I took the trolley straight down, went directly to housewares, visualizing throw pillows the whole way. There they were: gray faux silk, burgundy with tassels, muted pink, a navy blue velour, $10 a piece and perfect.

Through the years, I have turned on hundreds of new-to-Philadelphia students to Daffy’s as almost every compliment I received on boots, bags, dresses and coats, was answered with my saying, “I got it at Daffy’s.” That was the best thing—shopping at Daffy’s is almost like thrift shopping. You have to spend a lot of time in the racks, sifting and sorting and looking for what best says “I should be yours!” but like all good finds, once you make the discovery, the hunt is so worth it.

I’m hearing good things about the Burlington Coat Factory in Cherry Hill. I haven’t been; I’m too despondent, and “I got it at Burlington Coat Factory” just doesn’t have the same ring.