Betty’s Divine owner Aimee McQuilkin’s first thought on hearing that the men’s clothing store Desmond’s was closing after 37 years in business was about the mannequin with the manic frozen laugh in its window, known as Joe Cool. What was going to happen to that guy? After all those decades of frightening and amusing passers-by, she couldn’t bear to chance that he might be packed away. So when Desmond’s owner Barry Kubas announced that Joe Cool would go to the highest bidder, McQuilkin decided to offer as much as she could afford in an attempt to buy him for Betty’s own window.
Her friends started spreading the word on Facebook. “Kia Liszak from the ZACC started it, and then Jason McMackin was like, ‘I would give any price for Betty’s to have this.’ And then Mike Steinberg from the Roxy and [Missoula state Rep.] Ellie Hill. All of them are very good fundraisers!”
Betty’s cumulative bid reached $800 for the win. Kubas was so pleased, McQuilkin says, that he’s donating half of the winning bid amount to the Missoula Food Bank. “It was exciting to me that other people really wanted him to be here,” McQuilkin says. “He’s part of the community!”
“I had heard that some of the bids were from folks who would have kept him in their private cigar bars, and that mannequin belongs to us all … as we stumble by him for laughs and selfies year after year when the bars close,” Rep. Hill wrote to the Indy in an email. “He belongs to Missoula.”
As retail on N. Higgins undergoes major turnover, south of the river the Hip Strip is hanging in there. Just try to name a strip mall where you can find the variety of goods and services available on that one block wrapping around S. 3rd and S. Higgins: yarn, shoe repair, used sporting goods, books, beads, clothing, upcycled crafts, three restaurants, jewelry, and sensory deprivation.
So what better home for Desmond Divine (as he will henceforth be known)? “My favorite part of Missoula is even though it’s growing and changing, there’s still a lot of grittiness,” McQuilkin says. “Missoula’s still so small and gritty, and that mannequin’s part of it.” Long may he laugh.