The Ghosts of Brooks Brothers

ENFIELD, Conn. — The bones of Brooks Brothers stores are scattered across 100,000 square feet here in a warehouse near the Massachusetts border, mixed in with a sea of cardboard boxes and junk.

There are legions of mannequins, empty circular tables that once displayed neckties, posters of horseback-riding gentlemen from a bygone era. There is a whole section of Christmas trees and countless gold-painted ornaments of sheep suspended by ribbon — a Brooks Brothers symbol since 1850 known as the Golden Fleece. Blank order forms for tailors are strewn about. A neon sign that apparently still works. There is no apparel, but there are rows of heavy sewing machines that most likely came from one of the brand’s recently shuttered factories. And in the bathroom, a welcome carpet with Brooks Brothers written in cursive sits next to a toilet.

The whole mass was abandoned here in the fallout of Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy filing and sale last year, the scraps of a retailer that made nearly $1 billion in sales in 2019. Ever since, the couple that owns the warehouse, Chip and Rosanna LaBonte, has been scrambling to figure out how to get rid of it all. Junk removal companies have told them it will cost at least $240,000 to clear the space, which Brooks Brothers had rented through November. In order to pay the bill, the LaBontes are going to have to sell their home.

retail bankruptcies, which cascaded during the pandemic and affected everyone from factory workers to executives. Smaller vendors and landlords have often been left holding the short end of the stick during lengthy byzantine bankruptcy proceedings, particularly with limits on what they can spend on legal bills compared with larger corporations. And once bankrupt brands are sold, people like the LaBontes are typically left in the dust.

corporate bankruptcies in the United States last year, which had the highest number of filings in a decade, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The LaBontes, who are in their 60s, have been working with a liquidator to sell what they can of the Brooks Brothers detritus, and are about to list their home in Sherborn, Mass. While they have filed a claim in bankruptcy court, they are anticipating receiving less than 5 percent of what they are owed, if that — and confessed that the proceedings are hopelessly confusing. Most of all, they are angry and incredulous about the situation, especially as Brooks Brothers continues to operate under wealthy new owners.

entire portions of their closets. J. Crew and the owners of Ann Taylor and Men’s Wearhouse also filed for bankruptcy, while sales nose-dived at chains like Banana Republic. Temporary store closures added to the distress, along with the cancellations of special occasions like proms, graduations, weddings and other events.

All that led up to Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy filing in July, one of the most significant retail collapses of 2020. Brooks Brothers had dressed all but four U.S. presidents at the time of its filing, and prided itself on its American factories, which were also forced to close.

the SPARC Group, including Lucky Brand denim and Forever 21, leveraging the combination of Authentic Brands’ expertise in licensing famous brand names in various lucrative and creative (and some say equity-destructive) ways and Simon’s real estate portfolio.

At the time of the Brooks Brothers purchase, SPARC committed to keep operating at least 125 Brooks Brothers retail locations, compared with 424 retail and outlet stores globally before the pandemic.

Under the new owners, Brooks Brothers switched to wire transfers instead of checks, but kept paying rent on the warehouse through November, sending even more goods there as it closed dozens of stores and shuttered its three American factories, Mr. and Ms. LaBonte said. But after Thanksgiving, it sent a letter to the couple rejecting the lease as well as the contents of the warehouse. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, the warehouse and its contents had not been part of SPARC’s purchase of Brooks Brothers. As a result, said Mr. Van Horn said, the new owner most likely has no legal responsibility to the LaBontes.

A representative for SPARC stopped returning requests for comment.

“They used it for all of their store fixtures, so tables, props, fishing poles, canoes, everything you would see that would go in and out of a store to decorate it,” Mr. LaBonte said. “There’s probably 20,000 square feet of Christmas trees — everything except the actual merchandise.”

As to who would want it now: Customers have included local clothing makers looking for mannequins and a set designer from an upcoming HBO series called “The Gilded Age.” Last Monday, an older couple wandered through the space, looking at the Christmas decorations and empty gift boxes. Habitat for Humanity has been looking at the haul for several days and is taking some of the goods. Still, Mr. LaBonte estimated that somewhere around 30 percent of the leftovers have been sold.

The liquidator paid the LaBontes approximately $20,000 to sell what they can through mid-April or so. The couple will not receive a cut, and will deal with what’s left. When junk removal specialists assessed the cost of clearing the space in December, one quote was around $243,000 while the other was closer to $290,000.

“We’re just another Covid casualty to them, we get that,” Ms. LaBonte said of Brooks Brothers. “But I also don’t think they realized how much stuff was there.”

The junk removal firms, which confirmed the prices with The New York Times, said that it was expensive to remove the volume of goods. The costs included labor, multiple trips to dumps, donation and recycling centers, and the use of specialized equipment such as a forklift, large dumpsters and an 18-foot box truck.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Rick McDonald Jr., the owner of EastSide Junk, which provided the $243,000 quote to the couple. “They left an astronomical amount of stuff.”

When Authentic Brands, the licensing firm, announced the purchase of Brooks Brothers out of bankruptcy last year, Jamie Salter, the company’s chief executive, spoke about the retailer’s legacy and its “incredible history.”

The LaBontes, confronting a warehouse full of some of that history, were unhappy to see those comments.

They put out a statement recently asking: “What kind of heritage can they claim when they operate like low-rent, fly-by-night bullies?”

Contact Sapna Maheshwari at sapna@nytimes.com or Vanessa Friedman at vanessa.friedman@nytimes.com.

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Glimpses of Sudan’s Forgotten Pyramids

The site was nearly deserted. A few locals were tidying up after recent restoration work, and young camel drivers were out looking for clients. In the midday heat, the bright glow of the desert helped focus my attention on the pyramids themselves.

Situated on the east bank of the Nile, some 150 miles by car northeast of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, the Meroe pyramids — around 200 in total, many of them in ruins — seemed to be in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, as if the wind had smoothed their edges to accommodate them among the dunes.

30-year dictatorship of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who led Sudan through a long series of wars and famines, the pyramids of Meroe saw few international visitors and remained relatively unknown.

Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 — along with the removal of Sudan in 2020 from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism — was the hope that the country’s archaeological sites might receive broader attention and protections, not simply from researchers and international visitors but also from Sudanese citizens themselves.

ended subsidies on fuel and wheat, leading to a surge in prices. The reaction of the people, exhausted by economic crises, was not long in coming.

A wave of demonstrations filled the streets of several towns, far beyond the capital Khartoum. These were Sudanese of all ethnicities, classes and generations — but above all students and young professionals.

Ancient Nubia, the name of the region that stretches between Egypt and northern Sudan, I discovered that the majority of Sudanese had never had the opportunity to visit these sites — including the doctors themselves.

UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011 — is a four-hour drive from Khartoum, northeast along the Nile River. The pyramids here, built between 2,700 and 2,300 years ago, stand as a testament to the grandeur of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from the eighth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D.

Compared to the monumental pyramids in Giza, Egypt, the structures at Meroe are significantly smaller — from around 30 to 100 feet tall, against the 455-foot-tall Great Pyramid — and their slopes steeper. As in Egypt, though, the pyramids serve as royal burial sites.

rising floodwaters, as well as the continuing effects of wind and sand erosion.

Plans for new hydroelectric dams also threaten certain archaeological sites in Sudan — as they have in the past, when the construction of the Merowe Dam displaced tens of thousands of residents and led to a frenzied archaeological hunt for artifacts before they were submerged by the dam’s reservoir.

destroyed several of the pyramids in a ruthless search for ancient artifacts.

Alessio Mamo is an Italian photojournalist based in Catania, Sicily, who focuses on refugee displacement and humanitarian crises in the Middle East and the Balkans. You can follow his work on Instagram and Twitter.

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Palestinian Hamlet Embodies Fight for the West Bank’s Future

HUMSA, West Bank — Until last November, Fadwa Abu Awad’s mornings followed a familiar rhythm: The 42-year-old Palestinian herder would rise at 4 a.m., pray, and milk her family’s sheep. Then she would add an enzyme to the pails of milk and stir them for hours to make a salty, rubbery, halloumi-like cheese.

But that routine changed overnight in November, when the Israeli Army demolished her hamlet, Humsa, in the West Bank. When the 13 families who live there resurrected their homes, the army returned in early February to knock them down again. By the end of February, parts of Humsa had been dismantled and rebuilt six times in three months because the Israelis viewed them as illegal structures.

“Before, life was about waking up and milking and making cheese,” Ms. Abu Awad said in a recent interview. “Now we’re just waiting for the army.”

The vigor with which the Israeli Army has tried to demolish Humsa has turned this small Palestinian encampment into an embodiment of the battle for the future of the occupied territories.

formally annex last year. The government suspended that plan in September as part of a deal to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates.

The army has since destroyed more than 200 structures there, saying they were built without legal permits.

“We’re not shooting from the hip here,” said Mark Regev, a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “We’re going through with the implementation of the court’s decision. There is no doubt that due process has been served.”

18 percent of the West Bank that Israel has designated a military training zone. And they argue that the herders arrived there at least a decade after the military zone was established in 1972, in the early years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Today, Humsa does not look like much, strewn with the debris of successive demolitions — a broken pink toy, an upturned stove, a smashed solar panel. Even before it was first demolished, it was a community of just 85 people living in a few dozen tents, spread across a remote hillside.

The residents say the Israeli arguments miss a wider injustice.

“We’re the original inhabitants of this land,” said Ansar Abu Akbash, a 29-year-old herder in Humsa. “They didn’t have this land originally — they’re settlers.”

Israel captured the land in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. The first herders moved to Humsa in the 1980s because they say they had already been displaced by Israeli activity elsewhere in the West Bank.

The slopes where the herders live and graze their 10,000 sheep are still owned by Palestinians living in a nearby town, to whom they pay rent.

For the herders, the solution is not as simple as moving to the location suggested by the army: They say there is not enough land there for their sheep to roam.

“This is the only place where we can continue our way of life,” Ms. Abu Awad said. “We live through these sheep, and they live through us.”

The Israeli authorities rejected the herders’ applications to retroactively approve their modest encampment, said Tawfiq Jabareen, a lawyer representing the villagers.

That is a familiar dynamic in Area C. Between 2016 and 2018, Israel approved 56 of 1,485 permit applications for Palestinian construction in Area C, according to data obtained by Bimkom, an independent Israeli organization that advocates Palestinian planning rights.

And while the Israeli authorities have targeted Humsa, they have turned a blind eye to unauthorized Israeli construction in the same military zone as the herding community, Mr. Jabareen said.

The army has left untouched several Israeli structures built inside the military zone in 2018 and 2019, even though those structures were also under demolition orders, he said.

“These parallel tracks for dealing with Palestinian and settler communities are a stark illustration of discrimination,” he said.

The government agency that oversees demolitions declined to comment on this issue.

The nearby Israeli settlement of Roi, a village of 200 people built in the 1970s, was designed to fit within a narrow gap between two Israeli military training zones, in compliance with Israeli law.

The residents of Roi appear to have little sympathy for their neighbors. Some said it was the Palestinians who were the interlopers on the land and the Israelis who redeemed it from a barren wasteland.

“Look at what we did here in 40 years and you will understand,” said Uri Schlomi von Strauss, 70, one of Roi’s earliest settlers. “We built the land, we plowed the land, and this gives us the right to the land,” he added. “Why should I have sympathy?”

Across the valley, the herders of Humsa were counting the cost of the most recent demolition. The army had confiscated their water tanks, which the military considers unsanctioned structures. That reduced the water they had to drink and wash with, let alone to give their sheep or prepare the cheese.

One woman had lost all her embroidery, another her prized coat.

Aid groups had given them new tents, but not enough to house their sheep. So the sheep were sleeping in the cold, which the herders said meant they were producing less milk — which in turn meant less cheese to sell at the market.

“I’ve become a very angry and anxious person,” Ms. Abu Akbash said. “I’m overcome with stress.”

As an Israeli-registered car slowly approached the Abu Akbash family tent, the children ran to scoop up their toys, fearing another demolition was imminent.

“Every car they see,” Ms. Abu Akbash said, “they think it’s the army.”

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Can We Learn Anything From Horses?

Dr. Croney, who was not previously familiar with Equus, added, “We don’t want to bash what they’re doing.”

Humans “certainly can influence” horses’ behavior, she said. “But it doesn’t reflect some sort of inherent characteristic in us, is what I’m saying.”

Still, it is possible, Dr. Croney said, even outside the formal trappings of, say, leadership exercises, for people to obtain benefits just from spending time in the presence of animals. This is one premise of “the biophilia hypothesis,” which holds that people are inherently attracted to nature.

“My animal behavior work has made me a far better teacher,” she said.

Working with sheep, Dr. Croney said — “everything scares sheep” — requires her to be still and calm; to notice what the sheep are doing; to take stock of the environment they’re in and even to look at what they’re looking at “so I understand what’s going to impact them.”

“As long as the animals are comfortable, they’re in an environment where they feel safe and protected, and you have the ability to sit and watch them — or even better yet, interact with them safely — all of those are fantastic opportunities,” she said.

When asked what, exactly, Equus does, Ms. Wendorf’s answer was typically starry-eyed and expansive: “We create conditions for people to have breakthrough learning so they can have the lives that they’ve always dreamed of,” she said.

But the flourishing value for herself and Mr. Strachan may be that, in creating a business reliant on contemplative horse observation, they have found a way to perpetually hone skills that make them better than the average person at dealing with all unpredictable, skittish animals — including humans eager to improve themselves at any price.

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