When vintage was new, it was an era of unprecedented glamour in San Antonio for Julian Gold, the go-to style locale for the region’s chic and beautiful. When it began 75 years ago, Julian Gold provided high style sophistication for the city. Here’s a look back at the way grand style used to be…and continues to this day with their diamond anniversary.
By Lance Avery Morgan Photos courtesy of Julian Gold, archival
Imagine a world where everyone, always, wanted to be as beautifully dressed as possible. It wasn’t that long ago when hats, scarves, gloves, coats, and cloaks were just some of the accessories that were de rigueur during the time between 1935 and 1965, which represented the hallmark era of a fashionable Texas, and in particular San Antonio. Think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Mad Men as a way of life. Every single day.
After WWII, the retail world existed in the downtown and nearby areas of these cities where one would go to shop, work, dine, and be entertained. Seeing archival photographs of the era, one can only imagine walking down the streets of these metropolitan areas when it was apparent then that the residents took pride in their appearance and dressed to impress.
In fact, being fashionable was a requirement and created a strict style standard that rarely rebelled. Fashion thrived, and the community was consumed and appreciated the retail-wonderland of its independently owned stores and boutiques. It was high-end or the highway.
One shopping mecca of San Antonio was rooted in the downtown area of Commerce and Houston streets. Signature family-owned department stores ruled the retail world, which allowed these stores, and the families who owned them, to have a prominent place within the city. In order to fuel their fashion needs, residents would take buses, shuttles, or streetcars, if they didn’t have their own transportation, from neighborhoods into the shopping hub.
Based on the weather of the season, many well-dressed women wore hats, large and small, complementing the outfits to add more than a spark of originality. Gloves were a daily necessity, whether for shopping, tea, or business. This was called finishing an outfit, along with wearing the right matching bags, shoes, and jewelry.
A few of the exceptional retailers in the downtown and surrounding areas of the San Antonio area were Frost Bros., The Vogue Shop, Joske’s, and Julian Gold. While Frost, The Vogue, and Joske’s, among others, are distant memories, the San Antonio based luxury shop, Julian Gold, is firmly planted in the city’s style DNA today as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. And, what a tribute to its supporters and management team to steer its growth over almost eight decades.
Julian Gold Bridal is a destination for families seeking the most elegant dresses for that special day. Plus, the store has plenty of designer accessories, shoes, jewelry, and beauty finds to complete each ensemble.
When it was established in 1945 on McCullough in the city’s tony Olmos Park neighborhood, it was a revelation. It wasn’t quite the suburban store that would dot American cities in the 80s, and it didn’t have the hustle and bustle of a downtown shopping experience. It was the friendly, neighborhood upscale store that generations of women would come to rely on over the decades.
In fact, Julian Gold remains committed to delivering Texas women an array of designer clothing and shoes. “Originally, we sold only suits, dresses and coats,” said Robert Gurwitz, the company’s leader emeritus. “We didn’t carry sportswear until the early 1960s, and before that Julian Gold mainly sold pants, blouse lines and dresses. Sportswear and separates really came along in the 60s.” The founding principles for the shop were “service, fashion, and more service,” and the stores continue to thrive in three locations across Texas–San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi.
We recently caught up with Julian Gold CEO James Glover to learn more about the store’s secret to success:
Why do you think Julian Gold has had such success over the last 70 years?
It’s our people. We are fortunate to have a staff that genuinely loves what they do and what we stand for as a company. Our turnover rate is less than 3%, well below the industry average, and I think that is a testament to how well we work together and the environment we strive to create for our employees and our clients. We also make every effort to offer a level of service beyond expectations. In-store and beyond, we want our reputation to be one that people admire and respect. And that extends from Texas to Europe as we travel to find the best the industry has to offer.
What are some of the changes in retail you’ve seen since you’ve been with Julian Gold?
Most notably, the growth and change of digital and social media platforms and how that technology influences the industry. Having said that, we work to offer the best personal experience, and while we embrace the change and understand the importance of digital media channels, our focus has remained unchanged. We offer the highest level of service through impeccable attention to detail and personal relationships. We want our clients to trust that when they walk through our doors, they will have access to the best selection of merchandise with the highest level of service. For us, technology is a tool to draw people into our stores because that in-store experience is what sets us apart.
Describe for us the Julian Gold woman–who she is, what she does, and where she goes.
The Julian Gold woman is someone who appreciates the phone call. She values service, quality, and personal relationships. She is generational. From teenager to great grandmother, we are here to provide a true, elevated shopping experience, and our client is the woman who holds that in high regard. She knows that when she comes in, we will make sure she is taken care of from head to toe. We put an extreme amount of effort in supporting our clients and our communities because what is important to them is important to us.
Why is the Julian Gold bridal department so important?
Bridal brings us the opportunity to build new relationships and to be part of a celebratory and joyous time in someone’s life. We know our bridal salon must be exceptional, both in the experience and selection. We exclusively offer some of the biggest names in bridal (Carolina Herrera, Monique Lhuillier, Reem Acra), and we have an expert alterations staff to ensure that once the dress is selected, we will make it perfect. And when the wedding is over, we hope the bride comes back for all of life’s other celebrations.
Why does Julian Gold’s attention to quality make a difference to your client?
When your alterations staff has over 500 years of combined experience, when your sales associates personally deliver to your home, when we have your flat tire changed in the parking lot while you shop, you know you are getting the very best service possible. When our buying team travels from Paris to New York to find the best merchandise and our commitment doesn’t stop there. We have no rule book. Our rule is to do whatever it takes. Help a client organize her closet. Deliver her alterations to her office. Personally, drive a wedding dress five hours across the state to make sure it arrives in pristine condition. For us, quality begins with our people.
Glover goes on to share, “We hope our clients enjoy our business as much as we do. Retail is an exciting industry, and we are fortunate to have had a high level of success for the past 75 years. We respect our industry, but most importantly, we love and respect our clients who allow us to do what we do.”