Judith Krantz immortalized the shop in her novel Scruples, but Giorgio’s owners, Fred and Gale Hayman, still think the best lines are those at the cash register of their Beverly Hills clothing emporium. After 20 years and increasing competition from the likes of Ted Lapidus, Courrèges and Elizabeth Arden, the Haymans’ shop on Rodeo Drive can draw more stars than an opening night. At this year’s Academy Awards presentation, probably one-tenth of the gowns hanging from celebrity shoulders boasted a Giorgio’s label.
If the store now represents the ne plus ultra in shopping, its beginning was considerably humbler. Urged by his tax lawyer to unload a foundering clothing business in which he had invested in 1961, Fred Hayman, who was a restaurateur at the time, instead decided to “jump in with all my energy.” At Giorgio’s (the store was named after George Grant, one of Fred’s original partners), he began offering customers free hot-plate coffee and chilled wine. When business gradually improved and his pricey fashions began attracting Norma Shearer, Janet Leigh and other star trade, he added more of the sybaritic perks that were to make his store famous: free drinks from a plush oak bar, a pool table and even a reading area for waiting husbands.
These days Giorgio’s coed clientele includes everyone from Barbra Streisand and O.J. Simpson to Jacqueline Bisset. Hayman still sends off a thank-you note to nearly every customer. To make sure no one totes home a heavy box, his yellow-and-white-striped Honda zips through Beverly Hills making deliveries. For very special errands, he presses into service the shop’s stately 1952 Rolls-Royce. Hayman’s only weak point is a faulty memory, and he has occasionally mixed up stars’ names. “When that happens,” he moans, “I feel like dirt.”
To the suave Continental who kisses his customers on both cheeks, flashy Rodeo Drive now is a long way from St. Gall, Switzerland, where Hayman was born in 1925. After moving with his family to New York during World War II, he eventually landed work as an apprentice chef at the Waldorf-Astoria. By the ’60s he had become manager of the Beverly Hilton, where he met Gale, a divorcee and underage cocktail waitress some 16 years his junior. When she was arrested soon after for selling drinks as a minor, Hayman, then in the midst of a second divorce, showed up with the bail money. A year later the couple married.
Although now separated after 13 years, they remain hardworking helpmates in business. “I know women, and I know what they want,” says Gale, who recently introduced a new $150-an-ounce perfume called Giorgio. Explains Fred: “If your marriage fails, it doesn’t mean your friendship fails. We like each other, see each other socially and even entertain together.” Last fall the couple’s entertainment included a $250,000 anniversary bash for Giorgio’s 20th, complete with 80 pounds of beluga caviar and $40-a-bottle champagne. Neither professes concern over the current recession’s effect on business. “We are a community store, and we stay successful because we serve the same customers who came to us when we opened,” huffs Fred. “We are not a trendy boutique.”