By Mark A. Diaz
For 50 years, Mr. Glenn House of Ladies Fashion has designed, produced and sold the finer items women around the world have added to their closet and boudoir arsenal. Citing a fall and a resulting back injury, owner Mrs. Cynthia Glenn has decided to close shop and pursue other adventures. The store opened on July 15, 1968, and closed at end of 2017.
“I got rid of it,” Glenn said referring to the store’s inventory, “I got it off my mind. I don’t look back. I’ve done so many things, there’s no use to look back.”
Anyone who has had the good fortune to speak with Glenn knows that she is full of stories and accomplishments. The lovely nonagenarian is a walking history of Grover Beach and the Central Coast. She has started businesses, designed and built homes, traveled the world, taught children and so much more. Although the accumulation of years and injury may have slowed her, nothing has found a way to stop her.
Glenn grew up in Indiana and Oklahoma during the Great Depression with four sisters and two brothers. It was there that she started her fashion career out of necessity.
“My father sold ladies clothing,” said Glenn, “and when times were good we wore taffeta dresses and patent leather shoes. When times were not so good, we wore Buster Browns shoes and cotton dresses, and that’s when I made my own. That’s when started sewing when I was very, very young.”
She was only 9-years-old when she made her first coat. Taught by her mother, Glenn took to sewing like a duck to water.
“My father would always say, ‘get to bed, get to bed,’” said Glenn. “I would be sewing under the covers with a flashlight.”
Her mother bought Glenn her first sewing machine at an auction, it was a peddle-driven Singer made by the White Sewing Machine Company. Moving beyond high school, she enrolled into Central State Teacher’s College in Oklahoma where she continued her sewing education and other aspects of the art such as pattern making and even modeled her own work.
“My teacher was from Norman, Oklahoma,” said Glenn, “she was the best-dressed lady in the state of Oklahoma.”
Glenn moved to California and met her late husband Corman Glenn in Avila who served as a gunner in the Navy during World War II. The two were married within two months after their introduction. She said that Corman never officially asked her to marry him, he simply asked, “when?” They were married for 51 and a half years until his passing.
“We were a team,” said Glenn.
After moving to Grover Beach—then known as Grover City—in 1949, Glenn found a job making children’s clothes for a chain store on the Central Coast and worked from home. While visiting her sister Jo in Florida, Glenn was introduced a form of cotton called Plissé in the form of a gift. She adored the material and postponed her return to California to visit the fabric mill.
“I ordered three colors in that crinkly like fabric,” said Glenn. “I ordered pale blue, a peach and a pale beige. I ordered three huge bolts of fabric and had it shipped to California.”
Upon returning home, she started her business while teaching elementary school.
“I named it Cynthia of California,” said Glenn, “I thought that people from all over hadn’t heard of Grover Beach or Grover City (it was) but they have heard of California.”
She bought an old commercial machine, hired a lady and went to work out of the basement of her house. Glenn started with making patterns for robes and gowns but expanded to all types of lingerie. The business grew. She hired more people and equipment and began to receive orders across the country.
“I shipped out all over the United States,” said Glenn, “and I helped people set up their stores with my lingerie, Cynthia of California. I made all kinds of lingerie that had never been invented before.”
Glenn met Harry Berman a clothing manufacturer in Los Angeles and he took a shine to her and mentored her in the clothing business. Through correspondence and frequent LA trips, Glenn learned the ins and outs of the industry.
Glenn purchased the home that became Mr. Glenn House of Ladies Fashion from her good friends Mr. and Mrs. James Harner for $7,500. James was the first police chief and fire chief of Grover Beach. The business continued to grow. Glenn designed clothing and made it with her employees. She shipped internationally.
“I was in the clothing business in many different areas,” said Glenn, “making it myself, buying and shipping.” She went on to say, “We made a lot of money and we spent a lot of money, and we gave a lot of it away. I was happy. Life was fun. Life has been fun.”
Forever busy, Glenn does not see the closing of the shop as the end of something as much as she sees it as the beginning of a new adventure. She has set her sights on writing a history of Grover Beach and publishing a compilation of her poetry.
She extolls the readers of this article to do what they love, work hard, but do what you love and “I’m off to the next adventure!”
By Mark A. Diaz