Sometimes Permanence is a Liability: The Lesson of Meyers Luggage

The death of Palm Beach luggage dealer Edwin R. Meyers brings back some interesting memories of travel gone by.  Meyers Luggage played a crucial role in my family’s foreign travel, but my last encounter made me do something I never thought I would do.

In the 1960’s my parents did a great deal of travel in Europe in conjunction with my family business, especially relating to our Belgian business associate.  It was a grand time to be on the road, especially from Palm Beach, and one stop my parents made to prepare for that was Meyers Luggage on Worth Avenue.  My parents did well by Meyers; most of the suitcases and briefcases (I still have one of the latter) my father and mother sported in the 1960’s and 1970’s came from there.  They were emblazoned with a little brass plate to remind us where they came from.

My mother invested in a set of French’s luggage, the velour kind with the stripes.  More durable luggage one could not hope for, but the technology of the time required that it be heavy.  As my brother pithily put it, it was great luggage as long as someone else carried it, and that’s the way my mother travelled.  I ended up with it and used it for a while, but my budget for porters was not in the same league as hers.

In the meanwhile technology advanced.  Using newer materials, luggage became lighter and sported wheels, both of which were welcome innovations.  I disposed of the French’s luggage.

In 2001, the summer just before 9/11 made commercial air travel a complete fiasco, my wife and I went to Palm Beach, only to discover that Meyers on Worth Avenue was going out of business (the West Palm Beach store is still open.)  The brass plates were still on the merchandise, and Mr. Meyers was a very persistent salesman with me as he was with my parents.  By that time I finally had broken down and realised that I needed a wheeled roll on, so he had a nice Hartman model he was trying to sell me.

He went on at length about the virtues of the Hartman, which I knew, as my superior at Laity Ministries (who travels 40+ weekends a year for the ministry) is a Hartman fan.  The price was good and he just about had me buying it when, at the end of a long sales pitch, he said that this is the luggage I would be using twenty years from now.

Something clicked in me.  I had just disposed of the luggage that my family had kept for thirty years.  Why would I want to look at another piece of expensive luggage for twenty more?  We thanked him and left, but then went to the outlet in Ft. Lauderdale and bought a much cheaper roll-on.

With luggage, the truth is that, unless you live out of your suitcase and it takes a continuous beating, you’re better off buying something cheaper, using it a while, letting it fall apart, chucking it and buying something with newer technology.  This is especially true if you know how to buy and are willing to be flexible with the brand name.  It’s a throwaway mentality, and it’s sad, but it’s a fact of life.  Even the buildings we put up, impressive and permanent as some of them look, are designed for lives whose brevity would shock most people.

But the passing of Edwin Meyers reminds us of one thing: the time will come when we too will reach the end of our life.  And eternity with God will prevent us from ending up like the luggage, i.e., disposed of.  That’s true whether we are Meyers Luggage with a name brand or other kinds with not so well known name brand.

My condolences go out to the Meyers family in their loss.  Meyers Luggage was and is a great Palm Beach institution and memories of same are part of the fun of being an old Palm Beacher.

One thought on “Sometimes Permanence is a Liability: The Lesson of Meyers Luggage”

  1. Well, I can’t opine on the conclusion, but I can say the most satisfying piece of luggage I ever had was the roll-on I used during a weekly commute to Boston that went on for months, and that my Mom got free for me through cigarette coupons. It finally fell apart on the carousel at Logan on my last spin through. But the budget part really is right… I had a nice, expensive piece of luggage that I backed over in error once. Sure wished that one had been cheaper.

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