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FOR THREE DECADES, Connie Baker's Sans Appelle dress bazaar catered to a mostly aristocratic accumulation - the ladies-who-lunch crowd, socialites, and associates of celebrated borough and amusing organizations such as the Carats or the Girlfriends.

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During a contempo appointment to the store, best afresh amid in Cheltenham Square Mall, Baker - a affiliate of the Epicureans and the Moles amusing groups - showed off a jewel-trimmed glassy accouterment in emerald blooming that she had ordered accurately for associates of the Links Inc., a celebrated predominantly atramentous amusing account organization. She additionally acicular out red and white adornment with badge for the abode Delta Sigma Theta and I spotted, on a approval rack, a white blouse with a logo from the Red Hat Society.

It was an all-embracing array - racks of beaded atramentous gowns, faux-leather-trimmed dresses, fur vests and ponchos, churchy-looking suits, artist knock-off bags, and one-of-a-kind pieces - best on sale. The afterimage of all that commodity triggered my arcade actuation to the point that I aloof started avaricious - a cottony azure Indian caftan, a sweater with atramentous and tan faux fur trim, a beaded atramentous dress.

Now, sadly, Sans Appelle is no more. The bazaar bankrupt its retail doors for acceptable Dec. 31.

But authority on to your pearls, ladies. Baker, who angry 80 on Tuesday, is activity to try to break in business but afterwards a acceptable storefront. She's appointed her aboriginal pop-up bazaar on Friday and Saturday at the Crowne Plaza on City Avenue from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

"She catered to the Philadelphia amusing set," acicular out Patricia Gilliam Clifford, a association columnist and accessible relations consultant. "As you know, Philly is the alpha of all of those groups."

Agnes Ogletree, admiral of the Zeta Omega affiliate of Alpha Kappa Alpha, said, "She's a accurate icon."

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Baker, a 1957 alum of Morgan State University, confused to Philadelphia afterwards marrying Wendell Baker, of Baker Funeral Homes. Her aboriginal job in Philly was at Albert Einstein Medical Center, area she formed as a ameliorative dietitian. Afterwards her now-deceased bedmate began accusatory about her alive nights and weekends, Baker fabricated a career switch. She went on to advise home economics for 12 years and after spent 14 years as a career development specialist for the Philadelphia accessible schools.

After retiring, she anticipation about aperture a baby restaurant but back that didn't assignment out, the buyer of a bazaar she frequented consistently appropriate she try retail. Baker was a arrant chiffonier and admired clothing, so she absitively to accord it a try. In 1984, Baker opened Sans Appelle on Germantown Avenue abreast Springfield in Chestnut Hill.

The bazaar abounding a alcove in that it catered to upwardly adaptable women attractive for account pieces and article altered from what you about acquisition at administration stores. During her heyday, Baker would do eight to 10 appearance shows a year - featuring models such as Julie Wilch, the mother of Eve, the rapper/actress.

"She catered to women who had lives - women who had cogent careers or they had affiliated able-bodied or whatever," Wilch recalled. "Let's face it, Miss Connie wasn't cheap. If you went in there, you had to be able to pay some bucks."

Linda Coleman, an accessory administrator of multicultural diplomacy at Villanova University, agreed: "She had the best admirable things to accomplish you feel like a lady. I'm sad what it has appear to."

Around 2008, business alone off sharply. Retailers everywhere struggled. It was the Great Recession. Baker fell abaft on her hire in 2012 and was affected to move. Needing a abode to go in a hurry, she anguish up at Cheltenham Square Mall in Cheltenham Township.

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Initially, Baker had aerial hopes, but bootless to accomplish abundant of a go of it in the new space. She didn't allure the affectionate of cartage and audience her business was acclimated to. Canicule would go by during which Sans Appelle didn't accomplish a distinct sale.

"This is what I did for the ages - a month," Baker told me pointing to a $5,000 amount on a spreadsheet. "I acclimated to do $5,000 in a weekend."

On the day I visited aloof afore Christmas, I was there for a brace of hours and alone one added chump came through.

"The bodies who started with me are no best shoppers. They started 31 years ago with me," Baker explained, as she sat in her abandoned store. "Not alone that, they are retired or they are allowance their accouchement and their grandchildren and they don't accept the aforementioned appearance needs.

"And the adolescent bodies are not bathrobe the way we acclimated to dress - the way we still dress," added Baker, who had on a sharp, leather-on-mesh, cut-out anorak with atramentous slacks.

This weekend's pop-up bazaar will affection skirts, jackets, sweaters, and coats from the fall. The abutting one is appointed for Feb. 23 through Feb. 25 at the aforementioned area and will affection academic attire, brawl dresses, and mother-of-the-bride outfits.

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"I'm not accessible to accord it up yet alike admitting I apperceive I apparently should," Baker told me. "First of all, because I'm advantageous and I'm broke. This move to [Cheltenham Mall] amount me over $11,000, which I accept not recovered.

"And I don't accept a husband. I don't accept any accouchement at home. I don't accept any parents. I appetite to accumulate working. I anticipate you should assignment a brace of canicule a week. It gives you article to do. Bodies who retire go home and [too often] die, honestly."

She added, "People charge a acumen to get up in the morning.""

@JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

Email: armstrj@phillynews.com

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Published: January 28, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST



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