Mr. Glenn’s House of Ladies Clothing was started by Cynthia Glenn 48 years ago. Glenn, who has owned a number of businesses in Grover Beach over the years, purchased the corner lot on Grand Avenue by Fifth Street. The house her clothing business occupies now was Glenn’s best friend’s home.
“I opened it on July 15, 1968,” Glenn said.
Glenn has lived in Grover Beach for 65 years, moving from Avila Beach with her late husband, Corman. She said they had been renting an apartment in a house, but felt the $25 a month rent was too high, so went to Grover Beach to buy a home.
“We came looking for a house; we bought a lot,” Glenn said. “I drew the plans for the home. Of course, we ran out of money. [My husband] asked, ‘What will we do?’ I said, ‘Build a garage.’’
So that is what they did. They lived in the garage until they could build the house.
“The happiest day of my life was when we bought shiny green linoleum,” Glenn said, adding that the garage wasn’t finished, her cupboard was an orange crate.
Glenn was one of seven children — five girls and two boys — growing up in Indiana and Oklahoma during the Great Depression. She said they didn’t have much money, so she knew how to live on little, and how to work for what she wanted.
The couple met after Glenn moved to Avila Beach, where one of her sisters lived. Another sister was a teacher in Southern California. Glenn met Corman, who served in the Navy during World War II, in her sister’s restaurant in Avila Beach.
“We married after two months,” Glenn said. “We were married for 51 and a half years.”
The two were just barely 20, Glenn said. They finished their first house — which had three bedrooms — when they were 23.
Glenn came to California from Oklahoma — she attended Central Teachers College in Edna, Okla., for one year — when she was 18. She got a job as a nanny through Hancock College. She was a nanny for one family until she married Corman. Later she got her teaching certificate from a school in San Francisco, though she did not have a Bachelors degree, yet.
Her brother, an architect, drew plans “for the most beautiful house in Grover Beach,” Glenn said, which they then built.
“We only lived in it for three years,” Glenn said. “I told my husband I was going to sell it and go back to college.”
She said he told her to stop making rash decisions. “I said, ‘No, I think about them a long time, then make fast decisions.”
The next day, she said, she sold the home and went back to school at Cal Poly when she was 35 years old, and mother to three boys, Michael, David and Tom. She graduated from Cal Poly with her Bachelor of Education in 1963. She then taught all ages up to seventh grade in Nipomo for 18 years.
It was while she was still teaching that she bought the house her business currently occupies and started the clothing store.
“I had designed [and sewed] clothing since I was 9,” she said, adding that that was when she made her first coat.
It was a natural progression for her to open her own clothing business, which led to her designing and making her own lingerie, called Cynthia of California, in the building next door to Mr. Glenn’s for 18 years.
“I shipped lingerie all over the U.S. and to one store in England,” Glenn said. “I made beautiful lingerie. It was fun. I still have six commercial machines and hundreds of gowns ready to be made.”
Over the years, she has also had a music business with her son, Tom, called The Red Piano on Sixth Street.
“I just wanted a music store and my son, the youngest, was a musician,” Glenn said. “We sold beautiful guitars.”
The store closed when her son moved to Florida to pursue music more actively.
Glenn has some words of wisdom for making life great: Don’t look back.
“My memories make me strong,” Glenn said. “I look at the beautiful times we had. That’s when you look back. … It makes me get up [every day].”
She said that is why she continues to work even as she’s nearly 91 years of age.
“People need to keep moving,” Glenn said.
Glenn is a woman of many talents: she also writes poetry, which is paired with art by her sister, Jo Tarabula, and her brother, Thomas Lungford. Cards with the artwork and poetry, along with larger paintings by Tarabula and Lungford are for sale inside Mr. Glenn’s.
Glenn’s love of poetry started young, reading her own father’s poetry. Even at 90 she could recite from memory a poem he wrote and she recited in seventh grade.
One of the many things Glenn said she’d like to do “before the Lord takes her” is to compile a collection of poems written by her, her father, son, brother and sister.
This story was originally published in Journal Plus in October 2016.