BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — When Katherina Mena of Beverly was 5, she wanted dresses, not dolls.
Around 1987, her mother, Lisandra Mones, a single mother and an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who worked at a shoe factory at Shetland Park, helped open the first Hispanic clothing store in Salem, Katherina’s Fashions at 23 Salem St., in the city’s Point neighborhood.
The store still has a yellowed photo from The Salem Evening News that includes Mones posing with, among others, officials of the Salem Harbor Community Development Corp. and city officials, including Louis Mroz, an aide to Anthony Salvo, who was mayor from 1984 to 1989.
Mones had been working out of her home selling clothes before opening the store, Mena said.
As a young girl, Mena was always considered the best dressed, and even when she was little, women would seek out her opinion on their outfits. As a little girl, she remembers dressing mannequins in her mother’s store and going on buying trips to New York City, where her uncle had a fashion store in Manhattan. They would bring back “Spanish-looking” First Communion dresses that appealed to the “international clientele in Salem,” styles that were hard to find in the department stores of the day.
“Since I was little, I was styling,” Mena said.
Mones’ store was located at 121 Lafayette St. when it was wiped out in 1998. A fire in the apartment above caused water damage to the dresses below as firefighters extinguished it. Mones continued to work out of her home. She even opened kiosks at the malls.
More than four years ago, Mena, now 29, opened Glitterati Style, a prom and pageant superstore on Lafayette Street at the former location of Katherina’s.
Today, it’s a boutique catering to those seeking stylish, hand-beaded prom and pageant dresses by designers such as Jovani and Sherri Hill, among others. Dresses range in price from $250 to $1,500. The shop carries prom, Sweet 16, homecoming, evening and cocktail dresses. In 2011, it was nominated by the Salem Chamber of Commerce for an excellence in retail award.
In December 2011, the shop was featured on an episode of the MTV show “Made.” Appearing on the show were Gloria Styskin and her mother, Victoria, both of Salem, as Gloria was styled into a pageant queen in Mena’s store. Gloria was later hired to work at Glitterati.
“They picked our store because of the selection,” Mena said of the MTV producers.
With Mena’s success, her 2,000-square-foot store along Route 1A with two small fitting rooms was bursting at the seams, with lines running out the door during prom season. Customers wanted her to expand, but a mall location did not appeal to her.
This past weekend, she opened a second store in the former home of Lorraine Roy Fine Apparel at 30 Maple St. Lorraine Roy’s formal dress lines cater to mother of the bride and groom, and it had been a fixture in town for 60 years. The shop has since been acquired and moved to Bella Sera Bridal in Danvers, on Route 114 at 85 Andover St. While Lorraine Roy carries on, its decorated front windows no longer adorn Danvers Square, and many lamented the loss of this view.
This past weekend, the Danvers Glitterati opened in Lorraine Roy’s former 3,200-square-foot dress shop, and dresses are once again displayed in the window. Curran Brothers florist even decorated the window-box displays, Mena said.
“I was so pleased to see the sign, and so pleased to see the beautiful displays,” said Patricia Morneau of Beverly, who works at Beverly Hospital at Danvers Medical and Day Surgery Center on Maple Street. She always passes by the shop and was sad to see Lorraine Roy depart, but happy to see Glitterati arrive.
“It’s so nice that it will fill the void,” said Morneau, who has bought two prom dresses for her daughter from Mena already.
Mena said she was aware of the Lorraine Roy legacy when she leased the space.
“I want to continue the history,” she said.
In Salem, she employs 10 people during prom season, and she expects to hire just as many in the Danvers store this prom season.
Like her shop in Salem, Mena hopes the Danvers location will be a destination for those seeking one-of-a-kind dresses designed by celebrity designers. Mena said a contestant in the Miss New York pageant recently bought a dress from her store.
A Beverly High graduate with some college courses under her belt, Mena had been working for an advertising agency, and she had to attend many black-tie events. People would always seek out her advice on what to wear, and that ignited her desire to style once again.
“People always liked the way I was dressed,” she said. They would ask: “‘What is Katherina wearing?’”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.