“If you sit alone, your mind goes dull,” said Pearl Bloom, a vivacious, spunky woman, who after 40 years of working at Macy’s has no intentions of retiring. It’s uncommon to find people who 100 percent love their job and never plan to retire, but at 88 years old, that is Bloom’s plan.
Bloom moved from New York to Santa Barbara in 1967 with her husband, Frank (Bob), and their three kids. Hard times struck the family when Frank died from cancer six years later. Although Bloom had been actively involved in volunteer work within the community for years, when Bob passed in 1973 she knew she had to find a real job. “A friend of mine came to visit from New York and said ‘If you’re putting in all that time, why don’t you just get a job?’” Her favorite shop at the time was the Robinson’s department store, which anchored La Cumbre Plaza where Macy’s now resides. She was a frequent shopper there and knew the employees fairly well; they suggested she submit an application. In 1974 she was called to work the Christmas seasonal shift for the candy department, the starting platform of what has been a four-decade career.
After the season ended, the manager asked Bloom if she would like to continue working year-round. Working in the candy section, she became popular with her children’s friends and the younger generations who frequented the store. In time, the candy department was removed, and she was transferred between several different departments, her favorite being the children’s section.
After a few years of work under her belt, Bloom’s department boss said she was planning to retire on her 65th birthday. She asked the store manager who the new department manager would be, and he replied that she’s in the building. When Bloom asked to be introduced, he said, “I don’t have to; you’re sitting right there.” Bloom enjoyed her new position for a while but soon realized she preferred to interact with customers rather than manage her coworkers. “I said, ‘I don’t think I want to be manager anymore, I want to go back on the clock and do what I want.’” When the store became Macy’s in 2006, Frank Perez relieved Bloom as manager, and she returned to sales in the children’s section.
Bloom’s lively and daring personality made for some good times at Macy’s. One particularly memorable story was the surprise birthday party she and her coworkers threw for Perez’s 45th birthday. Bloom suggested they hire some girls to wear the Macy’s lingerie for entertainment. After a few mishaps, however, they were left without any girls; Bloom’s coworkers handed her a tape with music and told her to start working on her performance. “They said, ‘We’ve decided that we want you to do the entertaining.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Me? Oh! Sure, why not?’” After putting on what she described as “more makeup than a clown,” a wig, and a big, feathery boa, she made her appearance as “Shadie Sadie,” the name she and her coworkers came up with for her showgirl alter ego, and did a seductive dance/partial striptease for her boss. She was 60 years old.
Her playful ways have won Bloom favor with her coworkers ― she received an employee award for her comedy ― and customers, several of whom ask for her by name when they shop at Macy’s. “I have an awful lot of customers who come back to me with their children and grandchildren.” Well-known artist Mara Abboud even made her a personalized poster as a thank-you for her help.
Five years ago, Bloom was hit by a car while crossing the street to pick up a gift for somebody. She had to get metal rods put in both of her legs and hip. “And they had to do some screwing in the head. I don’t think they did too much to improve me.” She temporarily took a leave from Macy’s to focus on physical therapy to walk again. The Macy’s staff bought Bloom a scooter so she could come back to work; one year later, she did. “In fact, the scooter is still there,” Bloom laughed. “I said, ‘What do you think? I’m going to run into problems again?’”
Seemingly nothing can keep Bloom from her work at Macy’s. She never expected to be at the job for this long but holds no regrets other than that her husband was unable to meet their grandchildren and see what she’s made of her life. “It’s been an exciting adventure; it’s been happy times, and I’ve gone through quite a bit.”