“I have always done what I love to do, and it all just seems to work,” noted Luanne Gagliardi, an entrepreneur who shares a multitude of talents through her Galena-based businesses.
Gagliardi is owner of three Main Street shops— LuLu’s (127 South Main), The Galena Artisan Center (223 South Main), and most recently, Galena Candle & Bath Company (114 North Main).
What lends a very interesting twist to these businesses are the mix of history and heritage that have repeated themselves along the way and learning about the woman who “brings it all together.”
Inspired by her grandmother
At a very early age, Luanne Gagliardi was influenced by her grandmother, Francis Pampalone Gagliardi, a designer and seamstress from Sicily. After coming to America, Luanne’s grandmother beaded for Liberachi and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. She also hand stitched the pearl accents on Mamie Eisenhower’s inaugural gown, which now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute.
A passion for art, design and color
Luanne graduated from Sewanhaka High School in Long Island, New York—at that time, one of only a handful of schools in the country focused on career development and specialized in areas such as advertising, fashion design and cosmetology. After graduating from high school, Luanne continued her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.
After earning her degree from FIT, Luanne worked in Manhattan making dresses and purses out of vintage cloth. Within a few years, she moved to the Hamptons and worked in a boutique, “Kimberly’s East.” “Some of my favorite memories are of the interesting people and celebrities I met. One day, modern artist Willem de Kooning’s daughter, Lisa, came into the shop with a wet painting her father had just finished. I will also never forget driving in East Hampton to the beach when stopped at a stop sign I saw Paul and Linda McCartney sitting next to me on the curb,” shared Gagliardi.
Looking for new challenges, Luanne moved to Colorado in 1978. She enrolled at Metro State College with the goal of sharing her passion of art and enrolled to study to be an elementary school art educator. Friends who were involved in the theater and knew of her background in fashion design told her about an opening as a costume designer. And a new chapter began.
Leading to a career in costume design
It seems only natural that Luanne’s talent blossomed in costume design. Sewing ran in her family, not only with her grandmother, but also with her great grandmother and with her great uncle who was a tailor.
Luanne’s first play for which she designed costumes was “Robin Hood,” a children’s theater show, followed by “A Christmas Story” at the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities. She continued to designed and sew ornate costumes for 50+ other shows which included Gypsy, Cabaret and Shakespeare plays. In a 1982 festival in Aspen, she designed costumes for stars John Travolta and Charles Durning in “Mass Appeal.” “This was one of the best career choices in my life besides what I do now.”
While in Colorado, Luanne met her now former husband, John who was a studio potter. Together, they had three children.
In 1985, the family made their way to the Midwest, and Luanne decided to pursue a formal education in costume design at Chicago’s Goodman Theater through DePaul University.
A change in career to raise a family
Over the next several years, Luanne began using her creativity to sew unique wares from home—tapestry purses and totes, table runners, pillows, scarves and other distinctive items—and sold them at art and craft fairs in Chicagoland and throughout the Midwest so she could have a flexible schedule and focus on her family.
In 2002, she began visiting Galena with Marcus, the new man in her life. Visiting Marcus’s sister’s country cottage, she felt at home and soon moved to Galena, Illinois after falling in love with the charm of the town. What particularly intrigued her were the downtown shops. “It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own shop.” Luanne’s grandfather and parents had a shop in Manhattan on the lower east side in the 1930s.
L.L. Gagliardi Gifts of Distinction
The first shop Luanne opened was L.L. Gagliardi Gifts of Distinction, a shop that housed many of the numerous and unique wares she made for craft fairs.
Galena Artisan Center
In 2005, Luanne saw the opportunity to expand her store to include art made by friends and fellow artists; henceforth came the Galena Artisan Center. She closed L.L. Gagliardi Gifts of Distinction and moved her quality handmade products to the current location, 223 S. Main Street. An interesting piece of history that Luanne found after moving in was that this building, now boasting her sewn treasures, was previously a theater—the Dreamland Theater (1907-1931) and the Stanley Theater (1931-1937).
Luanne’s nickname, LuLu, became the name for a new store focused on fashion and accessories in 2008. Lulu’s is brimming with color and fashion inspired by Luanne’s New York upbringing, love of color and sense of style: apparel, scarves, belts, purses, earrings and necklaces and….hats.
Again, interestingly, after opening her business at 127 South Main, Luanne researched the building to find that it had been a prominent millinery shop from 1850-1936, owned by Mrs. J. Edwards. In an 1884 ad from of the Galena Gazette, Mrs. Edwards advertises: “Largest and finest stock of millinery ever offered in the city of Galena. Persons wishing to purchase will have a chance to select from a large and complete stock. A great portion of the stock was purchased by me personally while in New York recently, also from Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis.”
Not only was the business sharing a common theme, so were its tenants.
Galena Candle & Bath Company
In 2012, Luanne and Marcus were walking down Galena’s Main Street to see a “For Sale” sign in the window of Galena Candle & Bath Company. Luanne was drawn to the opportunity.
“I’ve always taken pride in my handcrafted works. I love that this is another ‘made in Galena’ product and love the all natural ingredients.” Another of Luanne’s trades included massage therapy, and she is familiar with quality products and natural ingredients that contribute to overall health and well being.
Not only does Galena Candle & Bath Company feature handmade products, it allows you the opportunity to make your own handmade products in the store.
The twist in history: Galena Candle & Bath Company occupied the Galena Artisan Center building before moving to 114 North Main.
What’s next for Luanne Gagliardi? “I love doing my own thing and living in a beautiful area,” which is what she’s done all of her life. “I love that look of bliss and intrigue on customers’ faces when they come in the store and look around.” Luanne’s Galena shops are a must-visit for shopping adventures and unique finds. Visit online for a preview and to plan your next trip: galenacandle.com.