Alyce Tekerlek actually retires today. She’s dreading it.
The sole proprietor of downtown’s Ma Maison for an amazing 55 years shutters her humble but elegant dress shop at 240 E. Main. St. and goes home to … well, she doesn’t know.
“What can I do at home?” she asked earlier this year. “I don’t have anything to do at home.”
For years I thought Mrs. Tekerlek was downtown’s longest-working person, and the second-longest-laboring stalwart in the city behind Dorothy Claire of The Ranch. Then barber Don Nagai emerged from a half-hidden Rose Barbershop right around the corner from Claire’s shop to snatch the title with his staggering 65 years.
But, though she’s number three in the hang-in-there game … 55 years. Come on.
Mrs. Tekerlek finally surrendered to downtown’s commercial decline. And to fear. Whole days passed without a customer. During the 2012 crime wave she became afraid for her safety, afraid even to scurry from the curb to the door of the shop, where during business hours she locked herself inside.
She had excellent taste in clothes, by the way, and she was a handy tailor.
What has always amused me about Mrs. Tekerlek is her view of retirement. Work is life. Retirement is a purposeless limbo, a puzzling void without any meaning or direction, a sort of existential Jell-O in which one just hangs in meaningless suspension, like a pear. Outside work, she has never known what to do with herself. She has no place in that universe.
“I get up, have breakfast, read the newspaper, and I look around and say, ‘Now what?’ ” Tekerlek said. “I dress and come to work. There’s something wrong with me, no?”
Not at all. Downtown is losing a lovely person. Try having fun, Mrs. Tekerlek.