The history of Judy’s, the young women’s clothing chain, along with tried-and-true business advice, from the force behind the operation.
From its start as a storefront in East Los Angeles in 1948 to its current superstore status, encompassing 104 stores, Judy’s was the inspiration of Israel-Curley, who set the tone and guided the business for 42 years, until she sold it in 1989. It was nearly unheard of for a woman to be running an expanding business in the 1950s, but Israel-Curley was successful by dint of her intuitive business sense—she welcomed her employees into an extended family, treated them fairly, offered them advancement, had impeccable timing for big moves, and worked like a dog (juggling family and work throughout)—not to mention that she had a flair for innovation. She is the first to say that the eye of the customer dictates fashion, yet it was her fashion sense that resulted in shortening sweater sleeves, introducing a certain pink, and bringing jeans and Keds to the fore. In a style that thrums with the obvious energy she brought to her work, she explains her guiding principles: that the aim is to sell a great product at good value; that fear is incompatible with creativity and ambition (but that worrying keeps you attentive to details); that the product comes first, then the location; that it’s not location location location, but customer customer customer. (“Be attentive to your customer and never help another at the same time without the consent of the first.”) She is frank about her unhappiness with unions: she feels she treats her employees better than a union would, and is, admittedly, a control freak; then again, she was one of the first to hire African-American saleswomen. Her chapter on rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous can be disregarded entirely.
Folksy, and too humble by half: Israel-Curley was a rare bird, and it paid off handsomely. (128 b&w photographs)