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Reality sets in for Santa Rosa shop's made-for-TV dress sale

  • Marta Koehne, owner of Hot Couture Vintage Fashion in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square, will be buying 540 vintage dresses from a Southern California couple, and holding a sidewalk sale next Thursday, which will be filmed for a reality television show. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Life these past few weeks has taught Marta Koehne, longtime keeper of a vintage clothing shop in Santa Rosa, that truth is stranger than reality TV.

Koehne answered the phone at her Hot Couture store in Railroad Square earlier this month and a producer with the A&E show "Shipping Wars" lofted an offer:

Would she care to have a film crew on hand as she received and put up for quick sale 540 dresses from the collection of a Southern California man who bought his wife an average of about 1,000 evening gowns a year — for close to 60 years?

Koehne, too, wondered if she'd heard that last part right.

Yes, A&E had caught wind of German immigrant Paul Brockmann of Lomita, between Long Beach and Palos Verdes. He is trying to sell off the estimated 55,000 new and used dresses that he purchased for his Margot since they met in the old country in 1955.

Koehne, 60, said the "Shipping Wars" producer set forth that a truck would deliver to Hot Couture about 1 percent of the dresses — 540 of them — and cameras would roll as she and the driver resolved a scripted dispute.

Then, she would sell as many of the dresses as she could that same day, and be paid a commission for those sales. Then the shipper would return any unsold dresses to the Brockmanns.

Koehne was a mite put off that a so-called reality TV show would coordinate and script the transactions. But the tale of the 55,000 dresses intrigued her, as did the idea of her offering a selection of them on the sidewalk to customers of Hot Couture.

She agreed to play along and a time and date was set for the sale: 2 p.m. Thursday.

Koehne said a few days ago, "If nothing else, it's bound to be a huge street party."


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