Flash with a Heart of Denim
The store is a kaleidoscope of short skirts, denim, jersey, dark plaids, sequins, shiny satin, and large zippers, all at bargain prices. "It's rare that we have anything over sixty-nine dollars," says Michael Mazor, owner of the sixteen-store chain, strategically placed in college towns and hip urban settings ("never in malls," Mazor says, pronouncing the word with distaste). His perennial best-seller: a $12 slinky cotton jersey shirt, designed by Mazor and manufactured in the United States for Pitaya.
Mazor is in town for a month or two to oversee the opening, along with a small entourage including his art director and a manager from the Louisville store who's training the staff.
Mazor began importing ethnic clothing from Guatemala to finance his Latin American travels and opened his first store in Bloomington, Indiana, in the early 1990s. He doesn't do as much design anymore and has recently hired a buyer, forcing him to relinquish some artistic control: "I'm replaceable as a designer, but I'm not replaceable as an administrator," he says, trying to sound as if he likes it that way.
Most Pitaya stores are in the Midwest, and Mazor mainly manages them by phone and Internet. He divides his time among places he likes: Indianapolis (where the company is headquartered), Seattle (where there is a store), and Santa Monica, California (where there's not).