As kids, Alan and Lori Kaplan certainly never dreamed of owning a lingerie shop… but as it turns out, they're pretty happy with the gig. With 30 years in the business of making women's bodies look beautiful, this husband-and-wife team has become the ultimate experts on undergarments, outfitting the majority of Broadway productions, as well as numerous TV and film stars. When they're not making celebrities appear even more glamorous, the Kaplans' expertise attracts clients ranging from brides-to-be to full-busted women to…. your average guy with a leather fetish. They even take orders from places as far away and exotic as Thailand. And with an overflowing stockroom, as well as Alan and Lori's dedication to impeccable service, it is a very rare occasion that a client leaves their shop unsatisfied.
Lori is smart as a whip, with a master's degree in Organizational Behavior, a combination of psychology and business, which often comes in handy when dealing with hectic days and demanding clients. Her studies also helped her realize that after spending 22 years working as a manager at S&S Hosiery in New York City (what used to be the store that provided Broadway with all of its undergarments), she could do it all on her own. Well, that is, if she were to partner with then newlywed husband, Alan. "Wardrobe supervisors and costume design professionals continued to come to S&S because it was the only store of its kind," says Lori, "but so many of these clients were unhappy with the store's service. It became obvious to me that there was a huge market for theater-specific undergarments and hosiery when they were offered with the very special care that theatrical folks require." The scary part: How to begin?
"Somehow everything just started to fall into place," says Lori. Only weeks after Lori's departure from S&S, she received a call at home from a dissatisfied S&S shopper. "They had been waiting for an item for months, so I got what the client needed by the next day and made them very happy, which made me happy," says Lori. Alan still remembers the exact purchase: Givenchy 555 Body Smoothers support pantyhose.
The rest is history. Word-of-mouth spread like wildfire that Alan and Lori were the people to call if you needed—or simply wanted—any undergarment in a jam (and that's usually the case with the theater!). The phone began ringing off the hook. By day they spoke with vendors, by night Alan filled up their car (which Lori affectionately deemed "The Bra-Mobile") with cartons of deliveries and dropped them off at the theaters on Broadway. "I liked interacting with the clients," he says, "and inevitably all my hand deliveries led to more orders."
The Kaplans started accumulating so much merchandise in their home that eventually Alan and Lori were forced to look for a retail space to conduct their business. "After just a few months, it was so cramped in the apartment, we couldn't see out the windows," says Lori. They signed their first lease for a space on Ninth Ave. and 42nd St. using loans from family and friends.
Finally! Alan and Lori had a place in the city where people could come to them; but little did they realize they'd outgrow it almost immediately. After years of running back and forth between their shop and a mini-storage unit, they were able to pay off their loans, make a small profit, and move to their current location at Ninth Ave. and West 44th St. The new stockroom is still overflowing, but at least not spilling into the fitting rooms.
Visit their shop on Ninth Ave. and 44th St. and you'll find the dynamic duo working non-stop: taking customer calls, placing special orders with vendors, fitting clients, and still making those emergency runs to the theaters.
Both Lori and Alan are extremely supportive of the theatrical community, donating yearly proceeds from Bra*Tenders' profits to their pet charity, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. They also support women's economic initiatives by donating discontinued products to Dress for Success, a charity that provides professional-looking clothing to low-income women who are trying to find jobs. And, Lori and Alan are 100 percent dedicated to their clients, as well as the quality of merchandise that adorns them.
Because of an intense combination of hard work, creativity, and a genuine love of their craft and clients, today Bra*Tenders is incomparable in the undergarment industry. And you don't have to be a Rockette to shop there—these days they accept Visa, MasterCard, and all shapes and sizes of women.