Note: I originally published this post on April 24, 2011, and, as expected, I did hear from one who knows more about Helft’s of Beverly Hills.
The sweater above has a label, Helft’s Beverly Hills & Los Angeles. An internet search for the label has turned up very little information, but I’m posting about it because I know that some time, maybe not tonight, not tomorrow, and not even next week, but some time someone who knows all about Helft’s is going to get curious. They are going to do a net search, and they are going to find this post.
Then they are going to comment here and tell me all I need to know, like when the store opened, and when it closed. And even better, they are going to know all the good stories associated with the store.
I know this is going to happen because it has so many times in the past. When I started this journal almost six years ago I had no idea that it would connect me to so many helpful people. Sometimes several years can go by, but through the marvel of google, the connection is made.
I’m patient, Mr./Ms. Helft’s person. I’ll be here waiting for you.
And so I have heard from a niece of the Helft’s. Read this interesting story:
I was so excited to see this. I am a great niece of Blanche & Tedd Helft who operated Helft’s. Here is what I know or remember of their story:
Long before etsy or Ebay, they were among the many who drove to California from the Midwest in the 1930s-40s with the hopes of finding fortune in California (which in itself was a story!). They financed their journey by selling steamer trunks and nickel-a-day life insurance along the way.
They opened their first store in the Beverly Hills Hotel. As I recall, the hotel lobby and shops were configured in a split-level. Harry Winston’s was at the top of the stairs of the lobby level — walk down and Helft’s was on the left. Or, if you continued down the hall past the store, you’d reach a door that opened to the tennis courts and bungalows.
As it was told to me, Blanche & Tedd Helft subleased their Beverly Hills shop from Elizabeth Taylor’s father, who operated an art gallery. Their store was frequented by hotel guests and many of Hollywood’s “screen goddesses.” Later, they opened additional stores, I believe in the Beverly Hilton, Centur CIty, and others. In terms of the origin of their merchandise, it is my understanding that Blanche frequently traveled to Europe on buying trips. (I don’t know who sewed the labels).
I remember Blanche as a stylish, elegant woman. They resided in their Bel Aire home for many years. Tedd took up oil painting in his 60s. Within their house was a studio with gorgeous views of the ocean. Hanging in my home today are several of his paintings that he or my mother gave to me.
He was always proud of the fact that, like Van Gogh (his favorite artist), he only sold one painting in his lifetime. As I recall, the only painting he sold was hung somewhere in the World Trade Center.
Tedd & Blanche were married over 50 years. Blanche died in 1982 and I believe their only child (a son who is probably in his late 70s/early 80s by now) and possibly their grandchildren assumed operations of the business.
I visited my Uncle Tedd on a few occasions in 3-5 years prior to his death in 1993. Once, after breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, he guided me on a walking tour by the bungalows and tennis courts. He’d share stories of Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more. He was a mesmerizing story teller of Hollywood’s hey-day.
One of his final gifts to me was a privately published autobiography that he personally inscribed and distributed to family members. It’s one of my most treasured possessions and gives a more intimate story of his upbringing and his life in California.
There was seldom anything as exciting for me as getting off a plane from Los Angeles and seeing someone with a shopping bag that said “It’s from Helft’s.” I’m sure his son and grandchildren know far more than I. Still, I hope you find this of interest.
Of interest? Definitely! My thanks to Andrea for this fascinating look at the story of Helft’s.