Maria dress shop closing after 38 years
From their first meeting, Maria Saluda Mickey was direct with Norma Jean Trombino — at least when it came to her attire.
It was about 40 years ago that Trombino and her husband, Robert, were Christmas shopping at Saks, then located downtown in Gimbels department store on Smithfield Street. The store was busy, and the Trombinos, owners of Trombino Piano Galleries, couldn’t get anyone to wait on them.
Robert stopped Mickey as she rushed by, imploring the saleswoman to assist his wife. Mickey told Trombino to go to the dressing room, where she would catch up with her as soon as she finished with her current customer.
“I took my gray suede Anne Klein suit into the dressing room,” said Trombino. “I thought I looked beautiful. She opened the door and said, ‘Take it off. I would never sell that to you. That is not your color.’ I was shocked. Every other thing I had brought in, she said, “No, that’s not you. It doesn’t look good.’”
That straightforward manner accompanied Mickey to her shop in Sewickley — first on Broad Street in 1980, then to the current space at 234 Beaver St., in 1994.
Maria dress shop specialized in high-end sportswear, like Mondi, Louben and
St. John, but Mickey was as well-known for knowing what would look good on her customers — her “ladies” as she called them — as she was for the quality of garments she carried.
“She was very passionate and gifted with what she did, as far as dressing her ladies,” said Sewickley resident Marilyn Newton, a long-time customer and friend. “She truly had a gift for that. If you wanted to try something on, she would say, ‘Go ahead and try it on, but it’s not going to be right for you.’ And you know what? She was right. But she was never pushy. She was always very helpful.”
Mickey will close Maria’s doors with a three-day liquidation sale in February.
“It’s kind of a lost art, what she brought. It’s kind of sad to see that type of service and passion and knowledge being lost,” said Newton. “It’s a rare thing today. Many people now shop in big stores or online. They don’t have the opportunity to have that kind of service.”
Mickey got her start in fashion while a high school student, working in Venger’s Clothing in Ambridge. After graduation, she attended fashion school in New York City, then worked at The Linen Shop in Sewickley before taking a job at Saks in Pittsburgh.
In 1980, she opened her first shop on Broad Street in Sewickley, where she specialized in ladies blouses.
“She had the most beautiful blouses. She sold so many — that’s how she got enough to move to Beaver Street. She carried all sportswear, and mother-of-the-bride dresses,” said Trombino. “Even if a customer bought a dress somewhere else, they would come in and try it on and ask her opinion.”
With the help of her husband, Henry, and seamstress Theresa Sacco of Baden, Mickey ran the store without any employees.
“I did everything she couldn’t,” said Henry Mickey. “We had (customers) from Sewickley, Squirrel Hill, Mt. Lebanon…She would lock the door until they were done. It was all personal.”
Trombino said Mickey, known for her dark hair and trademark Chanel bags, made regular trips to purchase just the right clothing for her ladies.
“She would take the first business flight to New York City, get a cab to the Garment District…she had appointments all day long. She never stopped for lunch. She went by herself. They would model for her. She had a list of customers and sizes. She would order exactly what she needed,” said Trombino. “She would get back that night and the next morning, open the shop. She would call all of her customers and say, ‘You should see what I got you.’ She would unpack and steam and press everything herself. And she would put up the most beautiful window displays.”
Mickey knew her customers so well that she would purchase clothing for them and send the “care packages” along. Husbands would buy birthday and Christmas gifts for their wives and pick up the wrapped items without first laying eyes on what they had purchased.
“She knew their sizes and shapes,” said Trombino. “Just about everybody kept everything.”
Mickey also took care to never put her customers in the same outfit.
“She had a book. She knew everybody who belonged to Edgeworth (Club). She would say, ‘I can’t sell that to you. Mrs. Oliver bought that.’ She wouldn’t want them to be in the same room with someone who bought it first,” said Trombino.
Due to health issues, Mickey stopped opening the store in August. It will reopen from
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 15-17 for a final liquidation sale.
Trombino said there is plenty of merchandise to shop.
“When she went to New York for new merchandise, she never put it out right away. She would wait until she sold the other stock. At the same time, she would have it on, so her customers came in and would see her have it on,” said Trombino. “She was her own model.”
As savvy a businesswoman as she is, Mickey’s friends said she is just as admirable an individual. “She’s a fun-loving person,” said Trombino. “She would do anything for you.”
Natalie Miller is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natalie at 412-324-1408, [email protected] or via Twitter @natalieNRMiller.