Viewed at 45 mph, most Woodward Avenue storefronts are a colorful blur.
But one boutique has managed to make commuters do a double take. Speedy Tees, the Birmingham screen-printing shop fronting M-1 near Lincoln, has developed a fan base of motorists who monitor the rotating window scene.
Four life-size mannequins dressed in all manner of ensembles are the stars of the display. In January, they sported classic Casablanca-esque trench coats and brimmed hats. “It has no meaning,” owner Keith Abentrod says. “We just try to have fun with it.” Before that, they wore T-shirts, each with a letter that spelled H-O-P-E.
His showcase riffs on popular culture and is alternately theatrical, rah-rah, seasonal, cheeky, even vaguely political.
Dubbed the “Ladies of the Avenue” by regulars, the mannequins have flaunted everything from bikinis to tuxedos to elaborate Mardi Gras masks during their 10 years behind glass.
“It’s just to get people to pay a little attention because they’re driving down Woodward with someone right on their bumper,” Abentrod says of The Ladies. “You try to create a little interest in your business.”
And an interest is exactly what Abentrod and his team have generated. During The Ladies’ tenure, Speedy Tees has received calls from curious onlookers wondering about the garb and its significance. “When we had H1N1 spelled out on the mannequins, people called asking if we gave out shots,” Abentrod says. “Then we changed it to H5N1, which is the new strain of flu in China, and you’d be amazed to know how many people called asking to know what that was.”
In addition to fulfilling screen-printing orders, Abentrod has found that doing window dressing at least once a month has become a full-time job. He encourages the community to voice ideas.
“We’re always open to suggestions,” he says. “It’s just a way to have fun. It’s made us an integral part of the community. We want people to get a smile from it.”