It’s been 70 years since women of San Antonio discovered Julian Gold, a destination for exquisite style and personal service.
We sat down with Julian Gold co-owner and president Bob Gurwitz and chief operating officer and partner James Glover, to talk about the longtime retailer’s early days and how the store has led fashion and styling for women in San Antonio and throughout Texas.
Retail in the DNA
“Julian Gold was a great retailer,” states Gurwitz. “From his early years, Julian watched and learned from his father, who worked in retail. Years later, in 1945, Julian Gold and wife Dorothy launched Julian’s namesake store on Main Avenue. They started small and built on that,” adds Gurwitz. “He was very well respected in the retail community and in the San Antonio community,” explains Glover.
Julian Gold was not only a great retailer, he also became Bob Gurwitz’s father-in-law when Gurwitz married Julian’s daughter, Gail. Like Julian Gold, Bob Gurwitz grew up in retail in the city of Three Rivers, Texas, a small town in Live Oak County.
“My family owned general stores named J A Gurwitz in Three Rivers, Mathis and Tilden, Texas,” explains Gurwitz. After high school, Gurwitz attended The University of Texas at Austin. While there, he lettered three years (1958-1960) playing Longhorn football for legendary coach Darrell Royal and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Later, he earned his CPA license. Then Bob married Gail and they moved to Houston for a short time. While working as a CPA, Bob did business in San Antonio and commuted from Houston every week. After a few years, Julian asked Bob to work for him at the Main Avenue store. As Bob tells it, he was there the next day. That was 52 years ago. Today, as longtime residents of San Antonio, Bob and Gail Gurwitz are proud parents of three and grandparents of eight.
Beginning with the basics
When Gurwitz joined Julian Gold, the company had stores in San Antonio and Midland. Then, 50 years ago, the store outgrew its space and moved to McCullough Avenue.
“Originally, Julian Gold sold coats, suits, dresses and blouses. It was a dress shop. By the early ‘70s, we started doing coordinated sportswear. We had a hat shop, and the cosmetic department was a leased department,” explains Gurwitz. “As time went on, we decided Julian Gold would offer everything in style that a woman wants. We try to fill their wants.”
Defining the philosophy of personalized service
“Our philosophy is to service our clients in the best way possible,” says Glover. “Every customer is unique and we look to offer them a personal experience catering to their style and personality. We are incredibly proud of our staff and their ability to assist the specific needs of each client.”
When asked to describe a customer’s first impression of Julian Gold in its early years versus today, Gurwitz says, “There are no differences. Julian Gold was all about service then as it is today; being nice to people, making them happy, and servicing them and ultimately making them look good. If we do that, they will come back to our store.”
“While the trends are constantly changing, our basic principles have not,” agrees Glover. “We want customers to feel welcome and at home. To shop and socialize in an environment that is friendly and professional. We hope they are able to find what they are looking for and so much more.”
Gurwitz adds, “We want them to feel like they have walked into our home, and they should be treated the same way. We always introduce them and show them around, and that is what we want them to experience in the store.”
Staying on trend
“We know customers can get product anywhere. It’s a matter of how people are treated, and we have always been very good at that. We are a service organization, and we are also about the people who do the work,” Gurwitz tells us.
Glover goes on to say, “The shopping experience can sometimes feel impersonal in today’s retail market, but not at Julian Gold.” He highlights unique services their customers value and have grown to expect. “We offer services like before- and after-hours appointments, exclusive trunk shows, in-house alterations, complimentary gift wrap and more. We want their experience to be enjoyable and convenient. This also includes allowing customers to take merchandise on approval to try on in the comfort of their homes.”
A presence throughout Texas
Today, Julian Gold maintains locations in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi and Midland. Today, Julian Gold employs an estimated180 people (about 80 in San Antonio). “We often refer to our stores as ‘your source for absolute style,’” explains Glover. “We offer everything a woman may need from head to toe including contemporary sportswear, designer sportswear, evening wear, lingerie, bridal, jewelry, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, athletic wear, etc. We are a generation store offering merchandise for all age ranges.”
History with its customers
When asked to explain their secret for maintaining relationships with customers of different generations, Glover points out, “Loyalty and support. We greatly appreciate and value our clients and their families. What is important to them is important to us. Whether it’s a social event happening in their lives or a community organization they are involved with, we look to help them on many levels.”
Supporting the community
Julian Gold does have a history of supporting causes. It hosts events for nonprofits at its stores throughout Texas and style events at fundraisers. “The community does a lot for us. We support just about any organization. We support charities that are important to our customers, and we want to be part of the community. Our director of marketing, Courtney Percy, does a great job for us on that front,” says Gurwitz.
“Just as our community supports us, we support them,” Glover says. “We are highly involved in a number of charitable causes across the state. There is nothing more fashionable than supporting a good cause.”
Julian Gold’s new look
Both men agree they are excited about a remodel planned for the store. The store currently spans 40,000 square feet of space. Pursuing a more modern look, remodel plans were driven by the growing importance of its contemporary collections. In addition to contemporary, shoes and eveningwear will also grow in space. “Expanding our floor space will allow us to bring in more designer names and a larger selection of merchandise,” comments Glover.
Aside from the remodel, the store will have celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary. “We plan on celebrating the anniversary with a number of events, trunk shows, style shows, etc. We host/participate in such events regularly, but we plan to elevate them to a different level,” says Glover.
Continuing the legacy
When asked about who will carry on the leadership of Julian Gold when he retires, Gurwitz responds that while his children will not assume his role, they will remain involved. Glover is poised to take the helm of the business. “James, his family and my family will continue the legacy of Julian Gold. I don’t want to sell it,” Gurwitz says.
By Nicole Greenberg
Photography by Elizabeth Warburton