As a mother with four children within a three year span (possible with twins in the mix), Dale Reza felt like she ran a kindergarten in her home. She started her oldest daughter Pilar in baby swim lessons at three months old because she wanted her to be water safe. Eventually all her children were on competitive swim teams and that’s how her career selling swimwear began. When she and her husband were looking at ways to pay for all the swim lessons, she decided to sell competitive suits and gear to teams. Her business grew from there and at one point she had more than 100 swim teams as clients, from age-group teams to university teams from California, other states and countries.
Dale moved to San Diego and opened her first swim shop in 1982, in a sub-leased 250 square foot store, near Miguel’s, across the street from her current location at 1150 Orange Ave. She soon needed to double the size of the store, and eventually took over the entire space. In 1995 she was approached to take over her current store space, and ran stores in both locations for several years before consolidating to the current space. For a time in the ’80s, she also had a store near San Diego State University.
She fondly remembers their grand opening party when she asked Speedo to get her a celebrity to attend, and they were able to secure Pablo Morales, an Olympic swimmer. The event was fortuitous since her daughter Viviana and Pablo clicked and are now married with four boys.
The hundreds of employees throughout her 35 years in business have become like family. Her employees have been her friends, her children and their friends, grandchildren, other relatives, and a host of J-1 Visa women from many countries, including Macedonia, Russia, and Estonia.
The swimsuit business has changed dramatically over the years with big box stores and the Internet consuming much of the market. “Throughout the swimsuit industry, the average customer tries on 35 suits, and rarely buys it at the first store because they don’t have a large inventory. I wanted to change that, so I carry a wide array of all types of swimwear and accessories, so people can find what they like in their size,” comments Dale. She estimates that she has more than 3,000 swimsuits to choose from. As we were talking, a customer came up and thanked her for helping her find the perfect suit.
I couldn’t resist asking the swimsuit guru about 2019 swimsuit trends. Here are her predictions ~ preferred new colors will be chocolate brown, Pantone golden yellow and brilliant orangey-red. She sees high neck lines and waist lines sticking around. I was surprised to learn that industry-wide, 70 percent of swimsuit sales are one piece maillots, with bikinis and tankinis coming in far behind in total sales. She remembers owning the first Anne Cole tankini in the late ’80s, and says it has been interesting to watch that style evolve.
International flair is one way to describe Dale and her family, who are all bilingual. Her father is from Croatia and her husband is from Mexico, and they have lived both in the U.S. and Mexico. She has had a lot of ups and down in her life, with both herself and her husband surviving cancer. Earlier this year, she lost her mother, Vivian Alvic, who also worked in the store, and at almost 106 was the oldest living resident in Coronado.
Rent for her current shop has been steadily climbing through the years, and while she loved living close to the store, especially since she was taking care of her mother, she feels the time is right for a change. She secured a new location in Imperial Beach in August and has been open limited hours, which will continue until October 1, when her Coronado store officially closes. So far, she says she has been pleasantly surprised by the great response she has had at the new store, and she looks forward to what the future holds.
As for her Orange Ave closing sale, she just reduced the remaining merchandise down to 40 percent off, so if you haven’t had a chance to stop by, it’s worth your while and you can say adios to Dale and plan to visit her in the new location at 700 Seacoast Drive, #107 in Imperial Beach, next to Katy’s Cafe. You can expect the same amazing personal service and selection that sets her apart.