by Mimi Montgomery
photograph by Missy McLamb
Louis Serotta knows style: In white loafers, navy blazer, matching tie, and monogrammed shirt, he embodies the elegance of another era – a time when a gentleman wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without a hat, and a lady could never be found without her gloves.
It makes sense. Serotta has been in the fashion business for more than 70 years and has owned his women’s clothing store, Serotta’s, for 64 of those. Serotta says the store has lasted because it isn’t your run-of-the-mill boutique. “A boutique is a shop that has just two, three, or four categories,” he says. “We’re a specialty store,” meaning he carries everything from minks to blouses, raincoats to jewelry.
At 96, Serotta, who has always loved to work, is still behind the front desk of the store. His first job growing up in New York City was selling peanuts at Yankee Stadium, where he got to cheer on Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Later, he served as a Marine during World War II, and ultimately found his way to Louisville, KY. There he met his wife, Nell (who has since passed away), and worked as a men’s clothing buyer and ran the ladies’ shop at a local department store. When he got a job offer at a department store in Salisbury, “it didn’t take me long to put my family on a train to North Carolina.” He opened his own store in Kinston in 1952, and the family moved the business to Raleigh in 1972. In its current Cary location, Serotta works with his two daughters, Barbara (pictured right) and Janet (pictured left).
“We’ve had a lot of loyal customers,” Serotta says. This is probably due in no small part to his disposition – Serotta is a salesman through-and-through. He always makes sure his customers leave with the best, whether they come in for a cocktail dress or a new coat. “I’m for sale, too,” he adds with a chuckle. “But you can’t return me.”
10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Saturday; 112 Kilmayne Drive, Cary