When Ronda Goetz, owner of the Rose Style Shoppe in Latrobe, goes on a buying trip to New York City, she carries the fashion dreams of hundreds of women.
Debbie Cloonan of Latrobe, a customer for the past 20 years, said Ms. Goetz will call her from a buying trip with a fashion find she believes is perfect for Ms. Cloonan's hard-to-fit 5-foot-11-inch frame.
Lynda Guzik of Latrobe, who recalled coloring in books under a mannequin as her mother shopped there in the 1960s, said Ms. Goetz hand-selects items for her "with the idea of who her regulars are."
The family-owned shop marks its 80th anniversary this year -- even as many neighboring storefronts in the downtown are shuttered and even with a mega-mall just a few miles away on Route 30.
"The clothes are unique, so you don't see yourself walking down the street," Ms. Guzik said of the Rose collection.
"I'm the personal shopper for everyone who comes in here," Ms. Goetz conceded. "I may not remember what I need at a grocery store, but I know what Debbie or Lynda is looking for."
Ms. Goetz, 56, of Greensburg, said providing such a personalized touch is "what gives me pleasure. ... I want people to come here and be happy."
The shop's legacy in Latrobe is proof her approach works.
"They are friends and family," longtime customer Sue Freedman of Latrobe said of the Rose dynasty. "That is what distinguishes them from mall stores."
The third-generation, family-owned boutique at 906 Ligonier St. has charm and success enough to start grooming another generation: Ms. Goetz's niece, Jessica Buchman, 16, of Greensburg, is waiting in the wings. Jessica started working there as an elementary student cleaning jewelry cases and selecting outfits for mannequins. Now, she works with customers.
From its opening in June 1932, the Rose shop has evolved from a women's clothing and accessories store to a boutique that also offers baby items, jewelry, gourmet food, greeting cards, specialty chocolates, gifts, home accents and more.
"I don't bring things in here I don't love," Ms. Goetz said.
The shop was founded by Russian immigrant Rose Rubinoff Buchman, whose brother was nationally renowned violinist David Rubinoff. An associate of his -- the iconic singer/bandleader Rudy Vallee -- sent Mrs. Buchman a congratulatory telegram on the store's opening.
Originally located in the Miller Hotel building at Ligonier and Depot streets, the shop at first sold bridal wear and hats. Women's clothing generally took over and in 1945, Rose moved to its present site.
After Rose Buchman died in 1951, her daughter-in-law, Bette Glenn Buchman -- Ms. Goetz's mother -- took over.
Over the ensuing decades as stores closed in the surrounding downtown areas, Bette Buchman attributed the Rose shop's survival to its faithful customers.
Bette Buchman did everything to fill patrons' needs, Ms. Goetz said, including making special orders, carrying their wish lists on buying trips to New York and telephoning male clients to remind them of their wives' birthdays. In addition, she was a good friend to everyone who stopped in to shop and share their troubles, and she always kept their trust, Ms. Goetz said.
"The nurturing that my mother gave this store is what makes it special," she said.
Bette Buchman died in 2011.
Today, Ms. Goetz, who started working there at age 12 assembling black boxes for packaging purchased dresses, posts daily store updates on Facebook and ensures the shop has plenty of gluten-free offerings.
She also searches for products made in the U.S. and favors companies that are socially active, such as the firm Caren, which supplies hand cream to the shop and donates to breast cancer research.
Like her mother, Ms. Goetz likes to shop locally. She recently purchased a line of gourmet dips made in Greensburg, she carries the Stephanie Dawn line of quilted handbags crafted in Ohio and she sells Asher's Chocolates from Montgomery County.
"If I can help promote jobs here, all the better," she said. "I love what I do and know the amount of effort it takes to run a business."
The store's homey atmosphere keeps customers coming back. Some say the shop resembles the proverbial small-town girls' gathering spot more than a business.
"It's not just four walls," Ms. Goetz said. "There's a lot of life that goes on here."
The store is celebrating its 80th anniversary with weekly drawings. An official celebration will be held in the fall.
Details: www.rosestyleshoppe.com or 724-537-6218.neigh_east
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.