He has been called the one true visionary in his industry, a dedicated leader, and true gentleman. And while he has worn many hats during his time as a Beverly Hills resident and business owner, including that of chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, today, Tom Blumenthal is ensuring that Rodeo Drive maintains its reputation as the most upscale luxury shopping destination the world over. As the president of the Rodeo Drive Committee, the merchants’ association and marketing arm for the sophisticated street, he has had quite a busy term, overseeing events like the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award and the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance.
In addition to serving as the face of Rodeo Drive and one of Beverly Hills’ biggest boosters, Blumenthal is the third generation in his family to own and operate Gearys, the high-end tabletop shop, which has maintained a presence in the posh city for more than 75 years. Ask anyone on Rodeo about Tom Blumenthal and they are quick to hype his praises, so we were thrilled to catch up with him for a few minutes to gain his insights on what makes Rodeo Drive so haute.
HAUTE LIVING Gearys enjoys two locations in Beverly Hills. When and why was the decision made to open the second location on Rodeo Drive?
TOM BLUMENTHAL We opened Gearys Rodeo Drive in 2005. There is a completely different market on Rodeo than what we see in our Beverly Drive location. The boutique on Beverly Drive really caters more to Southern California locals, while Gearys Rodeo Drive is driven by tourists and the entertainment industry. We welcome many of Hollywood’s elite through the doors of our Rodeo Drive boutique. Rodeo Drive is so unique because it is where we experience the most visibility with out of town guests visiting Beverly Hills. Even though, at 1,500 square feet, the Rodeo Drive locale is 1/10th the size of our Beverly Drive flagship, being on the same street as all of the legendary names in the world of luxury catapulted us to the next level.
HL How has Rodeo Drive managed to maintain its revered reputation as one of the leading destinations for luxury shopping the world over?
TB Well, there is a whole host of people involved in protecting and advancing the image of Rodeo Drive. We work quite hard to maintain our status as one of the most upscale shopping destinations, and it is a formula that we believe is quite successful. Today Rodeo Drive features all of the who’s who in luxury labels. We are the preferred flagship for many brands on the West Coast, and in some cases even in the U.S. Our stores tend to be much larger and feature more over-the-top design details than other luxury retail plazas.
HL A company from Hong Kong recently purchased the property that houses the Hugo Boss boutique in one of the largest commercial deals since the recession. How is Rodeo Drive able to resist the economic hardships that have affected other luxury shopping destinations?
TB I would think part of the reason is because of the reputation that we have worked so hard to build. Right now, even through what is going on in the global financial markets, there are very few vacancies on Rodeo Drive. When other streets and shopping centers are experiencing store closings and street-front windows sitting empty for months on end, Rodeo Drive is close to 95-percent occupied. When a brand has to scale back and is considering which locations to close, Rodeo Drive is certainly not going to be one of the first considerations.
HL Who are some newcomers to arrive on Rodeo Drive?
TB Fred Leighton opened its first California store earlier this year, as well as the Swiss watch brand IWC Schaffhausen. We were also thrilled to welcome Miu Miu to the 300 block. Additionally, MaxMara and Loro Piana both opened West Coast flagships on Rodeo earlier this year. Judith Leiber and Montblanc just recently celebrated their grand openings, and we are expecting Missoni and Tom Ford in the fall.
HL What is the mission of the Rodeo Drive Committee?
TB We are responsible for marketing and promoting Rodeo Drive. The promotion aspect shows up in many forms, including through the enhancement and protection of the street’s image, tourism promotion, city liaison, membership development, holiday marketing, and other specific programs. There are more than 70 merchants and property owners who are members of the Rodeo Drive Committee.
HL What is your role/involvement with the Rodeo Drive Committee?
TB I have been president for two years and I have another year left on my term.
HL The Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award is coming up in October. This is the first year that a jewelry brand, Cartier, has been chosen as a recipient of the award. What is the selection process for choosing the winner each year and why was a jeweler chosen this year?
TB There’s a selection committee chaired by Wanda McDaniel. All of the committee members are past honorees, media, and celebrities, so they recommend the finalists and then an extensive vetting and selection process takes place. We started giving the award in 2003 by recognizing Giorgio Armani. This year’s honorees are Cartier and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. It was an appropriate time to honor Cartier’s longstanding commitment to quality craftsmanship and their ongoing contributions to Rodeo Drive because 2009 marks their 100-year anniversary in America. And it is fitting to tie the famous jeweler with Princess Grace because she adored Cartier and was often photographed in their exquisite pieces.
HL What special treats do guests have to look forward to during the evening?
TB The event will take place on Thursday, October 22, and proceeds will benefit the Princess Grace Foundation-USA and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco will accept the award on behalf of the Princely family and both honorees will be recognized with a permanent plaque placed in the sidewalk on our world-renowned street.