Smith: Tale of Santa Rosa shop's doomed dress sale stretches on

  • 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)

You think you'd heard it all about a "reality" TV show's doomed notion to fake up some drama by shipping part of an L.A. man's lifelong collection of 55,000 dresses to a Santa Rosa vintage clothing shop. Then a former Miss Petaluma speaks up.

Sandra Gordon Michaan — Miss Petaluma 1989-90 — could only gasp, laugh and shake her head as she read how the owner of Hot Couture in Railroad Square was nearly driven to the brink by her role in a retailing misadventure triggered by scriptwriters for A&E's ostensibly true-to-life "Shipping Wars."

Hot Couture owner Marta Koehne had prepared to be filmed as she received and sold 540 gently used, lovely old dresses. But the shipment didn't happen, so she drove to L.A. to pick up the dresses but discovered they were nowhere near as nice as she'd been led to believe. She left without even one dress, and then she hurriedly borrowed others from fellow Bay Area vintage-clothes dealers so she'd have something on the racks for all the people she'd told about the made-for-TV dress sale that had utterly unraveled.

Her saga has Ex-Miss Petaluma Michaan, a Casa Grande alum who's now 44, feeling like she dodged a bullet.

A&E had originally wanted her to star in the scripted episode on the shipping of some of the 55,000 dresses.

Michaan said she heard from "Shipping Wars" in October and she put in a lot of time preparing for a episode that was to cast her as a fashion diva who locks horns with the burly truck driver who delivers a selection of the L.A. man's long-accumulated dresses.

"I was very intrigued by the whole idea," admits Michaan, an actress and model who runs the Alameda Point Vintage Fashion Faire and co-produces the monthly Alameda Point Antiques Faire.

"They told me this is their highest rated reality show on A&E," she said. The premise of her going nose to nose with the driver who trucks the dresses to Alameda sounded sort of fun.

But Michaan said there came a series of scheduling conflicts and false starts, then the A&E people switched to wanting to do the filming at a vintage shop in her quaint hometown of Petaluma. And then, she stopped hearing from the "Shipping Wars" producer altogether.

The producer apparently had discovered Marta Koehne and her shop in Santa Rosa's picturesque Railroad Square. A plan was hatched to ship the dresses to Hot Couture last Thursday and film a concocted tiff between the driver and Koehne.

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