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Sept. 19 was a good day to shop for office electronics in New York, but a bad end to a long year for those affected by the dissolution of Ally & Gargano.

Ally started emptying its offices last Tuesday at an auction conducted by David Strauss & Co. The now-defunct agency sold computers, production and editing equipment, TVs, VCRs, and phone systems hours before the One Club for Art & Copy hosted "Ally & Gargano: A Too Short History," a retrospective of the shop's memorable work.

Buyers from video and art production houses came to the auction for bargains on equipment that might have been used to produce campaigns for notable advertisers including Lorillard, Weight Watchers International, Pfizer and Dunkin' Donuts.

While a somber mood pervaded the event, talk in the ad community is that Ally Chairman-CEO Bill Luceno is forging ahead with a plan to open a small retail-oriented shop this week in Norwalk, Conn.

Beyond the parceling out of Ally's physical remains, agency alumni attending the One Club later that day said it sure was good while it lasted. At the invitation of teary-eyed co-founder Amil Gargano, alums reminisced.

"I joined Carl Ally the day I got married for the first time," said Ed McCabe, now chairman and CEO of McCabe & Co., New York.

Mr. McCabe's divorces are said to be as notable as his ad work. "I got married and went back to work," he said, adding wryly, "We had a work ethic in those days."

Later in the week, alumni were still talking.

"All the things that are done today in advertising are so derivative of the work we did at Ally," said Mike Tesch, creative director at Harris Drury Cohen, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I was very serious [at the One Club reception]..... It was not a funny event. It was like a wake."

"I am doing great work now because of my time at Ally," said Mel Rustom, senior VP-art director at Biederman, Kelly & Shaffer, New York. Mr. Rustom worked at Ally in the 1970s on the Hertz Corp. account. "They started the creative work you see being done today. Before, it was all just pretty pictures."

"It was a very poignant evening," said Mary Warlick, One Club executive director, who coordinated the event after speaking with Helayne Spivak, vice chairman-chief creative officer at Ammirati & Puris/Lintas. "There were so many creative luminaries in that room on Tuesday .....many of whom went on to begin their own agencies, but got their start at Ally."

Patricia A. Reidman, associate editor at Creativity, contributed to this story.

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