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The pair traveled to Istanbul last summer, sharing clothes out of two small carry-ons and picking through bazaars for medallions and textiles to inspire shoe details. “She is appreciative of where she is every day and you can tell she gets a kick out of the fact she’s getting to live her dreams,” said Joel.
Excluding television contracts, Gretta Enterprises pulls in about $13 million annually.
For 15 years, Monahan built businesses catering to affluent Bostonians. But working with Ray, who created an empire on a cheery persona and a knack for simplifying recipes, changed her thinking.
“I had been of the mind-set that if you don’t do high-end and protect your name, you’ll just be up in flames,” she said. “But there has been so much success in the democratization of fashion and beauty and I’ve gotten to live that firsthand.”
Monahan may open more upscale boutiques and spas, but when she talks about the Gretta brand, she speaks about tight household budgets and “real women.”
She doesn’t have to imagine what that’s like. An only child, Monahan was raised by grandparents and by her aunt and uncle, who were childless. (Monahan’s father was absent and her late mother suffered from schizophrenia.)
When, at 23, she wanted to open a hair salon, her aunt and uncle cosigned the loan, using their home as collateral.
“I remember fighting with them, saying, ‘I can’t take this [loan],’” she said. “I remember sitting up late, being so stressed and saying, ‘I will work every hour until this is paid off.’ It still haunts me.”
By her late 20s, Monahan’s salons (where her aunt worked as a receptionist) were hopping, she opened boutiques selling Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo, and bought a home in affluent Wellesley, Mass.
Now she lives in New York, but makes regular circuits through Needham, Mass., where Gretta Enterprises is based; QVC’s East Chester, Pa., studios, and Brown Shoe’s St. Louis headquarters.