SUPER SALE: Adding the Perfect Touch to a Quarter Century of Doing Business in La Verne

September 12, 2010
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Gina T. Home

Gina T. Home

This week Joann Lammens, owner of Gina T Interior Accents and Gina T. Home in downtown La Verne, celebrates 25 years in business with a huge anniversary sale, Sept. 16-18. When she started out, her suppliers and vendors and even the owner of the first space she leased at 2152 Bonita Avenue didn’t know if she’d be in business 25 days.

“That was my biggest challenge,” Joann said. “The gentleman who owned the building did not want to rent to a single parent. At the same time, companies, which required large buy-ins, were reluctant to sell to a single woman.

“It was really hard for to get my foot in the door.”

A lot has changed in a quarter century. Her beautiful daughter, Gina, after whom the store is named, is all grown up and Joann is married to a wonderful man, Dave, with whom she lives in their north La Verne home that will be featured in the Christmas home tour, Saturday, Dec. 4, to benefit Bonita High School. And the two Gina T. stores now anchor the downtown shopping experience.

One thing that hasn’t changed in a quarter century is Joann’s amazing sense of interior design and her uncompromising commitment to quality and detail. Whether she’s redesigning a single room for a client or an entire home — three of which she has already done this month — the result is always extraordinary.

“Our niche is creating something that makes the house we’re designing a unique environment,” Joann said. “You want to get the absolute very best for your dollar, and you don’t want it to look like everybody else’s.”

Starting in her garage 25 years ago (to the consternation of her neighbors who objected to an increasing number of delivery and pick-up trucks pulling up in front of her home), Joann built her reputation on creating exquisite floral and tree arrangements. In design school, designers always came back complaining about the dearth of quality florals and elegant trees with which to decorate and accent their clients’ homes. Joann thought she’d make that her niche, creating beautiful silk flower and tree displays.056

Over time, of course, Joann couldn’t take her hands off any project. How much better she could make a room stand out, she thought, if she could also introduce just the right mirror or the perfect pair of candlesticks or the ideal settee. Perhaps, change the color palette of the walls and the flooring, as well. That’s how Gina T Interior Accents grew and Gina T. Home evolved. Her showrooms are an extension of her personality and her will to make things look complete and finished and right.

“That’s our thing, finishing everything from soup to nuts,” Joann added. If knocking out a wall or redesigning a staircase will significantly improve a room, she’ll suggest it, and if the client agrees, she’ll work with the contractor to make it happen.

From the outset, Joann is intimately involved in every project, from the consultation to the installation. She can dive in and get things done because she has a fabulous staff, many of whom have been with since her first showroom opened. They play off one another, even sometimes finishing one another’s sentences like an old married couple.

“I see Lisa and Ariel more than I see my husband,” Joann said, laughing. The commitment to her clients and her work is what keeps them coming back. It’s not unusual for her to do three or four different houses for the same client.

“Every job has details,” Joann said, turning serious. “Every detail has to be dealt with. In order for the home to look 100% complete, you need details. You don’t want to look like you just went to a furniture store and said, ‘I’ll take this, this and that,’ and then when you bring it all home, nothing looks as if goes together.”

By Oct. 1, Joann and her helpers will have transformed her Gina T. Interior Accents into a Christmas wonderland.

By Oct. 1, Joann and her helpers will have transformed her Gina T. Interior Accents downtown shop into a Christmas wonderland.

Joann works whatever way best suits her clients. She loves it when they bring in fabrics or photos of their problem areas. “That really helps us to help them,” she said. She equally understands that many other clients will only be able to select what they want when they actually see it. During her consultation, she ask lots of questions: what’s your lifestyle, how do you plan to use the room, what’s are your favorite colors, do you like a lot of natural light, do you tend toward classical or contemporary, is there another place that inspires you, even if you just saw a picture of it in a magazine, are you the sole person making the design decisions, and so forth.

Based on the feedback, Joann carefully selects a number of different color palettes and furniture styles that she thinks most closely reflect her client’s tastes and preferences.

“I really watch people’s faces,” Joann said. “When you put a palette down in front of them and it’s wrong, they have no expression in their face. But when you put down the palette that’s right for them, their face lights up.”

Joann, of course, lights up when she puts the last detail in place, whether she’s completed a single room for a client or remodeled and redesigned an entire church or office building. Her signature of style is all over the Southland now.

Yet she continues to use downtown La Verne as her base. “Can you imagine me on the boulevard,” Joann asks teasingly. “It just wouldn’t feel right. I happen to love La Verne. I don’t want to move. I just feel very fortunate to be here.”

But 25 years is a long time in one place?

“I’m amazed,” she added. “I’m on my knees every day giving thanks. I’m thankful for all the people I work with and have been together with all these years.”

ginat-4More than ever she loves the challenge of her work.

“Every day is different,” Joann said. “That’s why I love what I do. Every day could be a different house. I love watching it all come to life, from the initial consultation through the installation. Walking out, you say, ‘That was great.’ That’s the high!”

Bringing in Joann as early as possible once the remodeling bug bites can save a client a lot of money. Kay Almy of Sierra Madre bought an entire house load of furniture for her new Italian villa-style home, but didn’t like it when it was installed. Frustrated, she found Joann driving through downtown La Verne one day.

“She was a godsend,” Kay said. “She was just so quick and professional. I didn’t have to go to bed at night wondering what she was doing. She’s not like all the decorator dabblers out there. She has everything she needs in her stores or she can quickly get access to what she needs. I loved her presentation. She listens, she makes suggestions. She’s there from start to finish. She’s superior and her help is superior.

“All the pieces and accessories fit perfectly. She doesn’t just say, ‘Here’s a piece, find a place for it.’”

Asked if all that hands-on care and attention were expensive, she said, “I found her to be extremely fair and reasonable compared to other designers I’ve worked with in the past, said Kay, who has lived in 12 different homes across the country due to her husband’s work.

As for her the original furniture she bought? “I donated it to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena,” she said.

Homeowner Frank Smith of La Verne said he didn’t have the time or temperament to hash out all the interior design details with Joann for his home. He just knew it needed a fresh look. “I just completely trusted her,” he said. “She pretty much did everything. I don’t believe I could have found anybody better.”

Despite all the glowing testimonials she receives, Joann still faces challenges. When she and her husband Dave, an electrical contractor, went to a showroom to look at some new lines for Gina T, the owner came out and immediately shook Dave’s hands.

“She’s the one you have to deal with,” Dave said, grinning.


For the Sept. 16-18 sale, featuring 25% off many items to key off her 25th year of doing business in La Verne, Joann and staff have completely stocked both stores. “This isn’t a clearance. We’re having deliveries made right up until the time of the sale,” Joann said.

“Have lunch downtown and come see us.”

It’s a once-in-a-quarter-century, three-day open house, and everyone is invited!



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