Considering Gay Muenchrath enjoyed selling things at the age of 10, it’s not surprising she has worked in retail for decades. She opened her own women’s specialty store, GM Clotheshorse, 30 years ago. She’s been in her current location in the Waterfront (Webb Rd. and 13th St.) for 11 years. The silver carousel horse has been with her from the start.
Fashion is her passion. She started modeling in Chicago at age 17. When she moved to Wichita in 1961 she modeled for Lewins, Henry’s , Stranahan’s and Woolf brothers.
VIP: What was your first job in retail?
GM: I worked in my dad’s grocery store as a girl. I loved it! Many years later, after my kids were grown, I was head of the women’s department at Woolf Brothers. Three years later I opened my own store in Morristown Shopping Center, which is now Piccadilly Square.
VIP: Was getting your own store a scary venture?
GM: Well, that first trip to market kind of was. It was in Dallas and back then it was in the enormous Dallas Market Center. It was overwhelming. I would peek in the showroom from the hallway. It took me awhile to go clear in. But I got used to it. I went to market five times a year in Dallas. After a couple of years I decided it was time to go to New York. After three years in my first location it was obvious I needed more space so I moved across the street to Millcreek Village near Central and Rock Road). I was there 17 years.
VIP: Was there any part of having your own store that was a rude awakening?
GM: Not really. I still love it and have a real passion for it. I love to match things to people. Think about it. There are so many personalities, so many styles, so many sizes. There is something just right for everybody. You just have to find it.
VIP: You have your husband, Fred, three daughters and one son, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Just that crowd could keep you busy. Do you ever think of retiring?
GM: I don’t think about it. I have it pitched to me on occasion (laughing). But as long as I still feel good and I’m still hooked on doing this, and I can pay my bills, I’ll be here.
VIP: You have a reputation for carrying a beautiful selection of special occasion dresses. Do you consider that a specialty?
GM: Somewhat. Women come from all over the state. They used to think they had to go to Kansas City, but now they come here. I have a good group of vendors and the dresses are affordable. Several can be ordered in the size needed, and we have a fabulous seamstress. I can sell someone a special occasion dress and if they love it and they’re thrilled, when they leave I feel like I just got something. I’m thrilled for them. Recently I sold a grandmother-of-the-bride dress to a customer who said I had sold her her mother-of-the-bride dress. She even described it.
VIP: What advice do you have for a person going into retail today?
GM: I would tell them to start by choosing a good location. They should have a very clear idea of what they want to do and what their customer is going to want. Also I would tell them to be careful at market. The choices can be overwhelming. You don’t want to run out of money after your first appointment with a vendor.
VIP: What has set you apart from other retailers?
GM: You just have to hold on when times are tough. And to be frank, tough times are right now. But I’m being optimistic and know it will eventually turn around. I think it helps that my whole desire is to satisfy the customer the best I can.