Charlotte Russe

September 11, 2021

Charlotte Russe is an American clothing retail chain with 181 locations in the United States.

Charlotte Russe has 181 locations in the United States

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Charlotte Russe offers young and lively fashions targeted at women in their teens and twenties.

From Brooklyn to San Diego: 1975-89

Three brothers, Dan, Frank, and Larry Lawrence, knew a lot about the clothing business. Having grown up and worked in their father’s clothing store in Brooklyn, NY., it was only natural that one day they would open their own store. In 1975, the brothers moved west and formed the Lawrence Merchandising Corp., in Carlsbad, California.

With fond memories of a dessert the brothers had enjoyed in their childhood, they decided to name their store Charlotte Russe, after the delicious strawberry sponge cake.

Dan, Frank and Larry worked hard and, over the next ten years, they opened six more stores in San Diego County, with sales of $12 million in 1984. Business was good, and they began to set up shop in other parts of the state, with bigger units of around 5,000 square feet.

The Lawrences opened their stores in heavily shopped malls and created highly visual displays and packaging that attracted their target audience. In fact, their windows made the local news, and customers used their distinctive shopping bags when travelling.

Their first store outside San Diego was a huge 20,000 square feet. Inside, the decor was trendy and exciting, with television monitors broadcasting the latest rock and fashion videos and some 65 mannequins. On opening day, customers were treated to charlotte russe, a pastry made of custard, whipped cream, and cherry topping.

The Lawrences spent $750,000 on that new store, but their expansion plans were conservative and growth was financed internally.

Charlotte Russe owns and operates stores in 45 states.

Currently, Charlotte Russe operates 181 stores, most of them located in malls and shopping centers. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 4, 2019. In April 2019 the company under new ownership announced on its website that it would reopen 100 retail locations including stores in Nevada, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois and New York. After the company announced it was closing its stores, the brand was sold to Toronto-based YM Inc., according to a press release.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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