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Published: Saturday, 6/10/2006

The guys who sit ... and wait

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Guys, you know the drill.

Your wife or girlfriend wants to go shopping, and you're going along. Like it or not.

"It's her day to shop. It's my day to carry the bags and sit," said Cal Fought, 60, of Fremont, during a shopping expedition at Westfield Franklin Park with his wife last weekend.

It doesn't have to be so bad. The clothes in the store might be for her, but that comfy leather couch in the corner - that's specifically for you.

Seriously. Some stores out there don't sell anything for guys, but they still do their best to be man-friendly.

They set up luxurious sitting areas, provide testosterone-laden magazines, and sometimes even offer bottled water or snacks.

"Some people call it the husband section or the boyfriend section," said Phil Tracey, senior public relations specialist for Talbots, based in Hingham, Mass. "We try to make it as comfortable and as relaxing as possible."

The company's store at Franklin Park has four chairs in the middle of the room - tasteful black-and-white cloth with oh-so-ample cushions - facing each other to encourage guy-talk. (Don't be fooled by the pink flower pot on the nearby table.)

"It's like a man-focused seating arrangement," said general manager Leona Curry. "[Arranged] like this, they talk: about shopping with the wife, the game ..."

Even though the store sells women's clothing, it's good business to cater to guys, too.

"She doesn't feel as rushed because he's not waiting in the car or another men's store in the mall," said Miss Curry, who added that there's also bottled water on hand for guys.

Stores know that keeping husbands happy keeps wives in the fitting room. That's why Coldwater Creek at Levis Commons in Perrysburg encourages guys to lounge in a couple of nice chairs and read the newspaper. Occasionally, the store even keeps Dove chocolates handy to pass out to them.

"They love that," said Roxi Schultz, store manager.

The Dillard's store in Franklin Park has a handful of classy but comfortable seating areas scattered strategically throughout the store. They're in sections where trying on things takes the most time, like denim and dresses.

That's where Mr. Fought was found taking a load off on a soft, high-backed chair, his wife no where in sight.

"This is nice," he said.

Which is exactly the point for B.J. Stiles, area sales manager for the store.

"Men aren't shoppers," she said. "[But] men are very patient ... and they're more patient when they're comfy."

Hence the big leather couch in one area that just begs guys to take a nap - some happily oblige - and the magazines ranging from Men's Vogue to Radio Control Car Action.

Now, if Mrs. Stiles only could figure out a way to work out some other perks for men.

"If I had a remote for you and a TV and a beer, I know you'd be happy," she said.

Male customers have come up with their own suggestions, just to be helpful.

Most of the time it has to do with cocktails or cool TVs, like the ones at American Eagle Outfitters. (Granted, the televisions there show music videos, not the afternoon's football game, but it's a start.)

Robert L. McGuire, 71, envisions an entirely separate and enclosed man-room in stores to keep guys out of the way. Don't worry, he explained, it wouldn't prevent a wife from getting her husband's opinion on an outfit.

"She could go over there, and knock on the door," said Mr. McGuire, of Bellevue, Ohio, who was resting comfortably in Coldwater Creek.

There are still plenty of stores that aren't man-friendly. They have no where at all for a guy to take a load off. Or maybe there's just a hard bench dumped thoughtlessly beside a table of ladies shoes.

Guys notice these things.

"That's the first thing I look for," said Casey Cadden, 20, of Maumee, who was out shopping with his mom at Talbots.

A pair of chairs in Dillard's certainly caught the eye of Tim Yeager of Temperance when he was out shopping with his wife.

Surrounded by racks of women's clothes, the 41-year-old was an island of man. He sat on a soft chair, glad for a break but also realizing that comfy seats offer more than a rest.

"It's probably a good thing marriage-wise," he said. "She's missing all of my little comments."

He said the man-friendliest place he's ever seen was a store in Hawaii called Hilo Hattie, which had a television, magazines, and enough room for more than 10 guys to hang out.

"They really cater to the men," he said. "I never mind going there."

There are limits to the powers of these areas, however, especially for guys who don't like shopping, Mr. Yeager said.

"Even the most comfortable chair, of course, doesn't make it that much better."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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