LET MONROE’S PLACE DRESS YOU — Monroe and Comanager Linda Ramirez hang out at Monroe’s Place, located at 182 Lake St. in Hamburg. Photo by Jessie Owen.
HAMBURG — Madonna. Cher. Oprah. Whoopi. Beyoncé. These industry professionals have become so synonymous with their singular monikers that their “other name might just be a legality,” according to the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Hamburg sports its own celebrity of sorts in the owner and operator of Monroe’s Place on Lake Street in Hamburg.
Monroe said that she wears the singular name she adopted in the ‘80s with “pride and honor.”
The former Arizona resident started her career in retail, becoming one of the youngest merchandise coordinators on the road, at age 21. “The ‘70s were still very sexist,” she said. “I flew around the world and people were very apprehensive about me, but I shocked the pants off of them. I knew what I was doing.”
Monroe’s path led her to the hair fashion world, where she spent time with the likes of Paul Mitchell (whom Monroe helped launch), Jeanne Braa, Rudy Harlow and more. “I always had amazing hair, because I would let them do whatever they wanted with me,” she said. “I looked like Cindy Lauper and Madonna. I looked like a rock star. I always say that hair is just a canvas that grows.”
She said that her “artistic side” found the Los Angeles club scene, which she called a great environment in which to promote her fashion and hair styles. “My hair fashion shows ... became a big hit in those days,” she said. “I had great fun living it up fashionably and the ‘80s will forever be my favorite decade.”
The business owner said that she loved trying new things and would step into a different realm every few years. Over time, she found herself running a Los Angeles restaurant, a modeling agency and then spending time in the music scene. She partnered with Gold Records and “began hanging with the music industry folks” and styling for musical acts.
Monroe said that the lifestyle she was living started to become demanding; after she had her daughter, Monroe Scott, she “decided to step back into the light of day.”
Her next foray was back into the retail world. For a time, she managed the then-fourth-largest Caché store, where she rubbed shoulders with the celebrity and royal occupants of Orange County, Calif. “It was a very fun time,” she said. “It allowed me to support myself and my daughter.”
Keeping her daughter’s best interests in mind, Monroe then moved into the world of real estate. “I not only learned a new financial language to speak, I also became a top producer,” she said.
That success rate could not continue, and Monroe said that she and her real estate colleagues realized that the market would be changing, and fast. “What was going to happen to us when the real estate market dried up?” she said. “I knew I needed a change and I told myself that, if I was going to go back to retail, I was going to be in charge, this time.”
The woman who had spent the majority of her life in the West began searching the Internet for a good fit, location-wise, and said she discovered low-priced properties in Western New York.
After touring locations in Binghamton and Syracuse, Monroe settled on a building in Hamburg. “The low property taxes lured me to WNY,” she said, “and the statistical data of a quaint village called Hamburg led me to believe that this would be a good place to bring my adventure.”
Monroe sold her California properties, packed up her belongings and brought her daughter across the United States to Hamburg.
Monroe’s Place opened for business on Nov. 1, 2007. “I bought a great building in a great village,” Monroe said. “I knew I could come and make a living here. I’m not afraid of a challenge. I loved coming to a new area. I have had an incredible amount of luck. There is no fear factor.”
The business owner said that her first form of marketing as a brand new WNY resident was to hand out business cards at the Burger Festival. She joined the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and the Village Business Advisory Council. She is also on the Village Economic Development Committee and a member of Sen. Tim Kennedy’s Business Advisory Board.
Monroe was the recipient of the chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008.
She attributed her success in the WNY area to her daring spirit and also to her extensive background in the fashion industry.
“When you come into my store, you get somebody that wants to help you and be your best friend and fashion consultant,” she said.
Monroe’s Place originally sold clothing for men, women and children, as well as household items, but Monroe said that she quickly learned that her niche was women’s fashion and accessories. “You already have 20 pairs of jeans and you have plenty of T-shirts,” she said. “I have zoned in on my niche and I became a dress shop. I have lots of dresses and I include every age and every personality.”
Monroe said that she evolved a “fashion science” and incorporates that knowledge into her interactions with customers. “In Monroe’s Place, you get great customer service and an education at the same time,” she said. “Women are very critical of themselves. I can give you the tools and tricks to emphasize your good parts and hide the negative parts.”
The business owner said that her ultimate goal is to help women look and feel their best. “The minute people walk into my store, I’m breaking them up by color palate and body type,” she said. “I want to make women like the girl they see in the mirror.”
She said that she shows her customers what types of dresses best accentuate their body types and what colors enhance their eye, skin and hair colors.
“Women all have issues with their bodies and we help them get through that,” she said, about herself and Comanager Linda Ramirez, who has worked at Monroe’s Place for almost five years, as well as Sales Associate Jessika Harrison, who is studying fashion at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. “We show people how to wear their clothing,” Monroe said. “I want women to know that you don’t have to be vulgar to be sexy.”
Monroe’s Place sports three floors of women’s accessories and fashions in all sizes. “From young to old, thin or full, conservative and funky, there is something for every girl, at Monroe’s Place,” the owner said. “I leave no girl behind.
“We have sizes for all,” she added. “We embrace our full-sized women. They get treated just as special as anyone else.”
Monroe said that the “coolest part” of her business is her price point. The dresses – including party, prom, cocktail, bridesmaid, special order, mother-of-the-bride, off-the-rack and more – and accessories are all at the same price point as larger box stores, according to Monroe. “Plus, you are getting an extreme customer service,” she said.
“We are here to be a best girlfriend and educator; to put women into a great dress,” she said. “When you want to wear a dress, come to us.” Customers may also order dresses from Monroe’s place; orders take two weeks.
Women can also browse the shop’s collection of jewelry, purses, shoes, hats, fascinators, scarves, hats and more.
Monroe said that she enjoys welcoming local women to let Monroe’s Place dress them. “I think WNY is fabulous,” she said. “I’ve never seen a greater place. I have absolutely no regrets about moving here and I have no intention of moving back to California.” She and her fiance, Jim Kimak of Cheektowaga, are planning a summer wedding.
Monroe’s Place is located at 182 Lake St. in Hamburg. Current hours are Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The shop is also open on Sundays, during prom season.
For more information, call the shop at 202-4020, visit www.monroesplace.com
or check out Monroe’s Place on Facebook.