Tuesday, February 28. Shrove Tuesday. Mardis Gras. The last day of Vidakafka.
“This is my last day being in the shop at all,” Nancy Kafka says before heading out that morning. “I’ve got a bazillion things to do.”
The sale, and closing, had been in the works for weeks. Things were finalized late last week and inventory started to move to its new homes at Woodstock Trading Post, Woodstock Design, and DIG, in Saugerties, over the weekend. And according to the new owner of that collection of fabulous lingerie, Daisy Bolle, sales have been “absolutely fabulous” ever since.
Kafka recalled her years as both a Woodstocker and Woodstock business owner with fondness. It all started in the early 1970s when she was living in Brooklyn with her daughter and a boyfriend she’d met through her sister. He had a place in Accord and one weekend her late sister Frayda was up with her family and everyone got bored and headed over to check Woodstock out.
“We decided we’d play make believe we were looking for a house,” she said. “And then we bought the first one we saw.”
That was on Ohayo Mountain Road, with a separate cottage and a two story great room that’s since seen over two dozen weddings take place within it. Meanwhile, the boyfriend exited and Kafka had to figure how to make enough to survive as a single mother in Ulster County, c. 1972. She started working at Family, still brand new, but found she needed more income. She became director at the local YWCA, but found it to be less than a perfect fit.
“My daughter was best friends with Robin and Mike Kramer’s daughter Jill and we had a lot of contact,” she said. “They just had the Woodstock Trading Post at that time and I asked if they could use me for a while and after one week Mike asked how much he’d have to pay me to stay on. I’d never thought of sales but I was having fun and I made a deal that included insurance and the benefit of having he and Robin teach me about business.”
Fast forward ten months and a series of conversations Nancy started having with a former fellow employee from the Y, Vida Nathanson, who said she had access to people with money if they could think of a business to start. Kafka noted how much she’d always liked lingerie, yet it was the one thing the Kramers weren’t selling. She didn’t want to compete and voila…Vidakafka was born, to live exactly where it started for well over three decades.
“Vida only lasted a few months but I always loved lingerie, and learned I really loved selling retail and running a business. It worked out for both of us,” Kafka continued. “Just like Robin, and now her daughter Daisy, I got to know my clientele. At first there were no bras in town but then I learned that Woodstock women don’t want the same bras as the rest of the world; I have still never carried a padded push up bra.”
Over the years, Kafka added, she not only found regular customers from town and around, but large coteries of men shopping around holidays and birthdays, or appreciative of the silk items Vidakafka carried for their gender. Where shopping for lingerie was difficult at first, involving showroom appointments and trips to the city, things started to get easier when Victoria’s Secret went mainstream. Although she still never gave up her personal buying trips, ensuring that everything she sold in her store “was something I both saw and touched before buying.”
So how’d the sale occur?
Kafka noted how she’d dropped her hours at Vidakafka down to four days a week in recent years, although she still managed to stop by most days.
“It’s a part of my life,” she said. “I’d always go in.”
As her sister grew ill she realized she wanted more time to spend with her and started talking to the Kramers about what might be involved in handing her store over to someone interested in keeping it as is. But the only nibbles she heard about involved people with new ideas for the space.
Mike Kramer eventually explained how he and Robin, and then daughter Daisy, had always steered clear of her lingerie business. But also how they’d worked out a deal when DIG opened, to move their extra inventory there and take 50 percent of any sale Daisy made, taking care of space and income issues simultaneously. By the time the Kramers passed ownership of their Woodstock establishments to Daisy and Van Bolle, it seemed that a similar deal was possible involving Vidakafka’s inventory, if not its space.
“I was thinking if there’s a time to do this, it’s now,” Nancy added. “I thought I’d get more time with my sister, but then we had to wait.”
Unfortunately, Frayda Kafka passed in late January. The sale of Vidakafka was completed a month later, moving the store’s inventory to all three stores now run by the woman who remembers Nancy Kafka from when she was a girl and saving up what she earned at her parents’ stores to spend it at Nancy’s.
“I am still very busy with Family and am looking to be more involved,” Nancy said. “I enjoy being around town. I plan to work out every day, but check back with me on that in a couple more months.”
Daisy Bolle talked about how exhilarated she is to finally be selling Vidakafka lingerie in all her stores, and working in Woodstock again. Moreover, she noted how pleased she was to have helped “at least part of this generation of great Woodstock working moms from the 1970s” find ways of retiring with incomes.
“It all feels perfect,” she said.
And filling the old Vidakafka space on Tinker Street once Nancy gets out the last chair and bureau?
“It’s going to be food,” said Kafka, brightly. “They’ll have counters and stools, prepared food. I’m suggesting they stay open during the week.”