By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
What started as a store for high-end sportswear has transformed into a boutique for must-have garments for weddings, galas and black tie affairs.
The original owner Nina Raynor, pronounced Nine-ah like the number nine, opened the store after her husband retired from the PGA tour.
The shop started off small at the corner of the current Seagate Hotel and expanded after the first season. In a different location, at 1031 E. Atlantic Ave., across the street from the original, the store and its namesake is still open, 60 years later.
This season, the store will celebrate its birthday with 18 trunk shows and different events so that all its customers can enjoy the anniversary.
On Dec. 5 and 6, shoppers can see the Ripetta Fall Collection, which features fine Italian tailoring in jackets, slacks and evening.
Joanne and Robert Wollenberg purchased the shop in the early 1980s from Raynor. Joanne Wollenberg kept Raynor on board for the first year to help with the transition of ownership.
Now co-owned by the Wollenberg’s son and daughter, Bobby Wollenberg and Cathy Ann Sauer, the siblings say they are carrying on the legacy of the store that their parents helped establish.
“She turned it into what people know it as today,” Bobby Wollenberg said of his mother, Joanne. “Every wedding and Bar Mitzvah seemed to be black tie. She quickly realized, we didn’t have any of that.”
Describing their mother as one the “last grand dames,” who never went to an appointment without heels and a pocketbook, they said she took her passion for fashion and went to New York to find what she wanted to sell in the store. They said she called her findings her recipe and the clothing was a completely different style from what Raynor offered.
“She made a complete transition from what it was to what it is,” Bobby Wollenberg said. “You can’t even compare Mrs. Raynor to Joanne. They were very different.”
When the family first considered purchasing the current store, they said their mother had one demand— that a working fire place be installed. So, their father built the fire place and the store continued to attract women looking for evening gowns, resort wear and matching accessories.
Nina Raynor carried designers such as Christian Dior. A 1993 news article said Nina Raynor was one of 10 stores in the country to carry items from the Paris-based designs.
With a loyal customer base, shopping at Nina Raynor is all about the experience.
“Anyone can go online and look for a purple gown in a size 4,” Sauer said. “But if you want extra beading, if you want it to fit a certain way, that is what we do. You can’t get that online. Our customers get personal assistance, that is what makes us different.”
Bobby Wollenberg said he remembers one lesson his mother taught him about the store— “Expect nothing and then everything that happens is a bonus.”
He said every day is different and he never knows who may drop in.
“Until the door is locked, you don’t know who is going to come in,” he said.
Nina Raynor is open for season Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays. For more information, visit ninaraynor.com or call 561-276-5714.