The Chicago wind slapped my face as I stepped out of the dentist’s office on Valentine’s Day in 1989. My first root canal and no plans for a romantic evening … or any romantic prospects on the horizon … had me down. It was 3 pm and I felt lousy, so I decided to go home rather than back to work. The Loop was decked out with hearts, chocolate, gorgeous strappy dresses, and sexy shoes. Making my way to the El stop, I looked up as I passed a window display of mannequins draped in luxurious full-length fur coats. I had thought longingly about getting a fur coat for a while, but the practical side of me had kept me from even looking at them.
Let’s digress a moment and remember the 80s … women’s “dress for success” attire involved skirted suits with silk blouses, nylons, and 3-inch heels. Chicago was a glamorous – but cold – city. Fur coats had become a popular outer garment among high-end, professional women. This was also before the backlash against wearing fur.
Before I knew it, I was in the store trying on furs. I fell in love with a full-length, black mink with a fox fur tuxedo collar. I loved the way it draped me in luxury, the soft fox fur tickled my chin … I imagined how warm I’d be walking around Chicago. Laughing and longing, I took it off. My wool coat seemed shabby and thin as I pulled it back on. I emerged from the changing room, and the clerk told me about their lay-away plan and Valentine’s Day sale. I was hooked. My steps were lighter walking out of the furrier; I caught my reflection in the window as I left – a lopsided smile was breaking through the fading Novocain.
By Valentine’s Day 1990, I’d paid off my fur, and I wore it that winter strolling around Chicago and Madison holding hands with my fiancé! While, my engagement had nothing to do with buying my fur, maybe there was serendipity in my spontaneous purchase?
25 years later, I’ll wear my fur coat for Valentine’s night out with my husband. Looking back at my frivolous purchase, I’ve never wished I’d bought myself a box of chocolates instead.
This story is near and dear to my heart, but it also offers some storytelling tools and techniques for brand and personal influence:
Use Vivid Descriptions – Sensory details like “slap of wind,” “soft fur tickling my chin,” and a “lopsided Novacain smile” trigger the imagination and draw people into the experience. Visual imagery, like “store windows decked out with hearts, chocolate, gorgeous strappy dresses, and sexy shoes” conjure the symbols of Valentine’s Day.
Develop Tension – Intrigue your audience by teasing out the tensions in your stories. The “fur coat and root canal” story exposes tensions between opposites. The juxtaposition of loneliness amidst symbols of love and romance sets the stage. The bitter cold wind and Novacain-frozen mouth contrast with the warmth of loving companionship. The fur coat represents an ultimate luxury – soft, warm, elegant – and is the antidote to shivering all alone.
Reveal a Powerful Customer Experience – Evans Furrier in Chicago provided a luxurious cocoon of supportive energy that evening. The furrier clerk tapped into my aspirations while offering a practical solution to my financial barrier. They captured my loyalty and trust by turning misery into joy.
Share a Life Lesson – Five years ago, I lost a dear friend to cancer. One of her parting messages to me was to live more “fur coat” stories. I don’t think I need a closet of furs, but living in the moment and taking charge of my own happiness punctuated the end of my single years. Perhaps she was telling me that my fur coat led me to the right kind of love and a lasting relationship.