Fixture on Forest Presses the Reset Button

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Rosalie Gelston, a Forest Avenue fixture, begins a new chapter in her life.
Rosalie Gelston, a Forest Avenue fixture, begins a new chapter in her life.

Shop owner Rosalie Gelston has sold Thee Foxes’ Trot, a Forest Avenue fixture for 37 years, or “a lifetime,” as Gelston put it.

The new owners, Frederick White and Corey Parry, will retain the name while putting their particular stamp on the shop. White who will manage day-to-day operations plans to bring in more gift items and eventually silk florals. Parry will function as a silent partner.

Gelston was expected to turn over the keys today Thursday, July 30, said the shop owner’s daughter, Nancy Fries. Staying on will be Janet Cruciana, Gelston’s right hand for 15 years, who she says “was born with the retail gene.”

Gelston and her late husband Hal purchased the business in 1978 from the original owners, who named it after an English manor. The original location was 264 Forest Ave.

Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, many students bought kokuyo book bags at Thee Foxes Trot, said Gelston’s daughter who along with her two sisters graduated from Laguna Beach High School. Residents and tourists alike shopped for ethnic home furnishings and African artifacts, Asian silk wallets and unique jewelry, all of which were different from the goods offered in other downtown shops, Fries recalled.

In 1984, the couple opened a second store, which they called Thee Foxes’ Trot Next Door, in leased space at 260 Forest. The new store was more contemporary, specializing in gifts and personal accessories. Both stores thrived for decades, even as other retail spaces on Forest Avenue changed hands multiple times.

Among the nearby closures in the early ‘80s was Ecshbach’s Floral and Gift Shop. Gelston recalls the lines of shoppers waiting to get in the shop during the holidays and see the Christmas arrangements and ornaments.

White, always a fan of the Thee Foxes’ Trot, worked as a manager and designer in the floral shop in the ‘70s. He recalls that Ecshbach’s resorted to charging admission during the holidays as a means of controlling the crowds lining up to get into the store.

Over the past 30 years, White has managed three Stats Floral Home Decorative Centers, including opening the Seal Beach location, and has acted as buyer, designer and store manager for three other furniture and patio retailers.

When Hal Gelston died in 2001, his wife decided to close the original store. Her business continued to thrive as she focused on traveling to gift shows around the country to hand select her inventory.

Fries notes that “proceeds from the store fed, clothed and housed me and my two sisters, put us through college, paid for our first cars, and paid for the repairs when we crashed those cars.” She expresses pride in her mother’s ability to run the store so successfully over 14 years since her father’s death. “And prouder still that she had the foresight to know when it was time to end this chapter of her life,” said Fries, who worked part-time in the store during holidays and school breaks.

Neither she nor her sisters wanted to take over the store, said Fries, a freelance writer and college essay advisor in Newport Beach. Older sister Brianne ran her own Thee Foxes’ Trot in Malibu for several years, but now is an interior designer living in the San Fernando Valley. Younger sister, Jeanna, who worked in both stores, is raising three young children in Seal Beach. “None of us really has the inclination to take over the store,” Fries said.

For her part, Gelston says that she is “delighted’ with the new owners and that while still fit and healthy she plans to travel and spend some time with her seven grandchildren, but first she might take a nap.

 

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