The New Glamour House
Check out this great feature on Glamour House from the Santa Barbara New-Press.
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March 12, 2012 1:07 AM
"Are you going to change the name now?" was a question that Ann Picciuto was repeatedly asked when she and her husband, Rick Gehrke, bought Glamour House, the rather dated lingerie shop that had been in business in Upper Montecito Village since 1965.
After pondering the idea for the first year after the purchase in 2003, Ms. Picciuto decided the name would remain the same.
"Glamour is always in vogue. Glamour House was the right name. It's all about timelessness and elegance. I've always believed in beauty and quality," said the newest owner who, at age 58, exudes glamour herself. "Besides, it was only fitting that we kept the name since the business has been in Suite J, next to the Montecito Post Office, since it started in January 1965, and we still have the same phone number, 969-5285."
Updating of the interior was in order, however. So were the products.
Mr. Gehrke, owner of Projects West Construction, was in charge of the remodeling, which included new lighting, marble floors, new cabinetry and pale pink walls. "We kept the antique chandelier, which hangs over the sales counter, and the racks," said Ms. Picciuto during an interview at the shop.
"The original sign hanging above the front window was repainted, and a Dutch door replaced the original one. We keep the top half open as much as possible so I can chat with passers-by or give their dogs a treat."
A major transformation took place in the merchandise, which includes bras, panties, camisoles, pajamas, nightgowns, robes, slippers and accessory items like socks, sachets and more.
Some of the lingerie and slipper lines available are Bedhead, Calida, Celestine, Cosabella, Chantelle, Eileen West, Hanro, Jacques Levine, Natori, Oscar de la Renta, PJ Salvage, P Jama, Pluto, Ugg and Wacoal.
Bras range in price from $50 to $150, panties from $10 to $50 and nightwear from $65 to $350.
"We cater to women of all ages — the grandmother, her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughters. It is my privilege to sell a young girl her first bra, and I sell Baby Uggs for kids," Ms. Picciuto said, adding that her newest additions are loungewear and activewear "for the woman who does yoga, goes to the gym or walks her dog. I still Rollerblade and ski. I feel strongly about fitness for women."
She is especially proud of the window displays she changes every two weeks to reflect current trends or holiday themes. "They are up-to-date but not too risque. I am respectful of my demographic, most of whom are in their 50s. Men on their way to the post office or some other errand will comment on the displays when the Dutch door is open," she said.
"I always put a photograph of me and my mother on Mother's Day" in the display, said Ms. Picciuto, the daughter of the late Lillian Picciuto, who died in 2008, and Salvatore Picciuto, 88, who lives in Boston, where Ms. Picciuto grew up.
"My parents were always my stability, my security. They gave me a sense of who I am. I have a strong Italian heritage," said Ms. Picciuto, who came to Santa Barbara on April 1, 1982, at the age of 28 when she was transferred from Raytheon Co. on the East Coast to become plant audit manager at Raytheon in Goleta.
"I had a job, no friends and no family. It was April Fools' Day, and I figured if it didn't work out, I would say it was a joke and go back. It didn't take me long to appreciate the Santa Barbara lifestyle," she said with a laugh.
During her 25-year career with Raytheon, Ms. Picciuto earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and a master's degree in business from Golden Gate University by going to evening classes in Santa Barbara.
She also taught cost and price analysis at UCSB Extension, gave seminars to women on "Playing the Corporate Game to Win" and audited numerous companies worldwide.
In 1998, at the age of 44, she married Mr. Gehrke, the father of two young children now in their 20s, and she retired from Raytheon. "I didn't want to travel anymore," said Ms. Picciuto.
For a while, she did some private consulting and became involved as a volunteer with the Braille Institute Auxiliary and United Way of Santa Barbara County.
"But I always dreamed of working for myself one day, something related to business, beauty, fashion and fitness," she said. "One day, I went to the Montecito Post Office and saw that Glamour House was for sale. I went home and told Rick that I found the business I wanted to buy," Ms. Picciuto said, adding that the shop offered her a challenge to use her accounting and people skills to re-invent the business, and "I got to do it in a beautiful world. I have always loved fashion. I love anything beautiful."
Using her business acumen, she doubled the gross income of the shop in the first three years.
"Glamour House used paper receipts and a cash register when we purchased it. The boutique lacked customer and historic tracking capabilities. Inventory controls and accounting practices needed improvement," she said.
Much of her success Ms. Picciuto attributes to customer service, fair pricing, excellent-quality merchandise, her sales associate, Phoebe Greene Linden, and "the finest clientele in the world."
"We bought (the business) on Aug. 1, 2003, my 50th birthday. There was a Fiesta barbecue on the village green, and I pretended the party was just for me," she said.
It was a celebration of the start of a new chapter in her life.
"I believe in living my life in chapters, continuing to evolve at any age. This has been a perfect fit," said Ms. Picciuto,
Any thoughts about the next chapter?
"I may want to design my own line of lingerie, keeping in mind that it's important for me to have time to smell the roses, which I do every day. We have rose bushes at our home in Montecito, and I always have a bouquet at the store," she said.
In the meantime, Ms. Picciuto focuses on the needs of her clientele, which includes a number of celebrities whose names she does not divulge.
"What goes on at Glamour House stays at Glamour House," she said with a smile.
However, Ms. Picciuto did share a story about a wealthy Montecito matron in her 90s.
"Rick and I nicknamed her The Panty Lady. She came in and bought dozens of pairs of panties every five weeks — like clockwork. I think she used them as disposable underwear. She spent enough to cover our rent that first year. After she died, they found she had been hoarding them," said Ms. Picciuto.
FYI Glamour House is located at 1470 East Valley Road, Suite J, in Upper Montecito Village. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 969-5285, email email@example.com or go to www.glamourhouselingerie.com.
Glamour House is located at 1470 East Valley Road, Suite J, in Upper Montecito Village. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 969-5285, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.glamourhouselingerie.com.