By  on November 17, 2004

Arguably one of the hippest specialty stores in the country, Ron Herman has no ambitions to expand beyond California.

“I think of ourselves as Hollywood’s neighborhood store,” said Ron Herman, owner of the five-unit chain. Having bought Fred Segal Melrose in 1976 and then opened four more stores in Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa and Malibu, Herman couldn’t be happier with both the chain’s size and its Southern California location.

“I consider my size as small, very small, maybe medium. It means simple, not complex. It means neither I nor our staff try to overanalyze, and we don’t take ourselves very seriously. That’s the way in which we really have fun,” he said in his keynote speech.

And he feels lucky to be in L.A. “I’ve personally chosen to be in L.A. and to stay in L.A. We have a community of fashion-conscious people, people who set trends and are willing to take chances, and that news travels very fast.” He acknowledged that the store’s reputation — having been in business nearly 30 years — “is really quite large, and I hope it’s larger than we are.”

Herman said the company selects locations in an unusual way, and explained that he once took a trip to Las Vegas with the vice president of his women’s division, John Eshaya, to check out a site. “I said, ‘Here, sit on the bench in the middle of Caesars’ floor and tell me what you think.’ About five minutes went by and John said, ‘OK, they’re not here, let’s go,’ and we got on a plane and we left. So we don’t have a store there.”

Herman recently opened a tiny boutique in Malibu, home to many A-list celebrities. “The challenge has been to make that store feel like Ron Herman on a Saturday afternoon, in a space that’s only 700 feet,” he said.

The mainstay of his business remains jeans. Herman recalled a buying trip to Europe many years ago when he tried to buy these important designer collections, and they said to him: “‘No, no, no, you can’t have this, you can’t have that,’ and I kept asking why? And they said, ‘Because you’re just a jeans store.’”

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