Cathie Anderson

Insights into the people who shape Sacramento’s business landscape

Cathie Anderson: Owners of Getta Clue have the 4-1-1 on longevity in retail

02/11/2014 12:00 AM

02/11/2014 12:52 AM

The owners of Getta Clue joke that their Downtown Plaza store is located about where Section 222 of the new Sacramento Kings arena will be.

For 20-plus years, Justin Bilbao and Scott Gilbert have supplied the region’s hippest customers with the latest streetwear and skater fashions, and they say this won’t change if the new arena gets cleared for construction. Demolition could begin on the section of Downtown Plaza east of Fifth Street as early as May. Bilbao and Gilbert plan to move Getta Clue to the west side of the mall, near Macy’s. Their Good Stock Boutique, now located opposite Getta Clue, will move to Arden Fair.

The duo say they moved their store into the mall nearly 17 years ago because they felt they needed to aggressively compete with national chains such as PacSun and Zumiez. While much of the trendy clothing they carry changes every year, their mall presence in the capital’s urban core remains integral to their success. All that remains is maintaining inventory that appeals to the 17- to 24-year-old.

“We’re able to cater toward our market specifically,” Gilbert said, “and the bigger retailers are not able to cater toward a specific market. We know our market intimately, and we’re able to adjust things quicker and take advantage of trends that are happening in Northern California or Sacramento.”

Gilbert and Bilbao launched Getta Clue when they were both 19, solidly in the demographic their store serves. These days, customers they knew from back in the day bring their kids to shop. The Internet, the retailers say, has made it easier now than ever to stay on top of fashion trends. They also attend several fashion shows around the nation, hire young talent and mentor local designers.

Bilbao and Gilbert have expanded and contracted their business over the years. They closed their City Kicks shoe store, for instance, but they opened Good Stock with dressy casual fashions that appeal to the older siblings of Getta Clue customers.

A heart for fashion

The parents of boutique owner Vanessa Lopez had hoped their daughter would get a job with good benefits, but eventually they supported her desire to follow her heart.

“My dad (Victor Lopez) worked for Crystal Creamery,” Lopez said. “My mom (Marta Lopez) worked for the phone company. I had to beg and plead with my dad to trust that I knew what I was doing. Little by little, I introduced him to people I worked with, and he realized that this wasn’t just that I liked to shop and I wanted to sell clothes I liked. He saw this was a passion of mine.”

When Lopez didn’t have quite enough savings to get Heart Clothing Boutique in 2010, her dad gave her a loan. Lopez worked from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the store, 1903 Capitol Ave. Then, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. many nights, she worked as a server at nearby Plum Blossom to earn enough money to pay her rent.

“My first month (in business) was very, very scary,” she recalled. “It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought it would be super, super busy. There were maybe a handful of people in a day. Sundays were maybe two people.”

Lopez spent the quiet hours posting photos of her inventory on Instagram, generating online purchases. Public relations company Unseen Heroes got local bloggers to shop at her store and post photos of themselves in the fashions. As Heart began popping up in one blog after another, people began showing up to see what all the buzz was about. Within five months, she was able to quit her night job, and last year, she finished repaying the loan from her father.

Lopez attributes her success to lessons learned from retailers such as Bilbao and Gilbert. They hired her to be a buyer and store manager while she was still in college at the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

In tune with design

Noelle Tavares got blitzed in 2012 when hip-hop artist Rasheeda popped up on media blogs wearing the Sacramento fashion designer’s ‘Ya Dig’ Africa shorts, so she was a little disappointed that her 2013 designs didn’t catch fire.

“I’ll never forget it,” Tavares said of the firestorm Rasheeda created. “I was working a night job at the time, so I would sleep all day. By the time I woke up, I had 15 voice messages on my phone and I had 90-some emails. I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I checked my voice mail, and an old partner of mine said, ‘We’re on Media Takeout,’ and I’m like, ‘For what?’”

Before that day was over in July, Tavares’ shorts had been posted not only the Media Takeout blog but also on Fashion Bomb Daily and other New York fashion blogs. Even now, a Google search of “Rasheeda Africa shorts” brings up photos. There was no such furor in 2013, but Tavares did get a call from the owners of Good Stock Boutique. They wanted her to become one of the local designers with pop-up stores within their store.

Tavares was dubious. Her fashions had always sold better to people in faraway locations, but she agreed to give it a try out of respect for the retailer. Tavares now counts 2013 as the year that she gained a solid local following, thanks to Good Stock, her store has wider recognition.


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