If you’ve ever been to Van Nuys, California, you’re probably familiar with the Country General Store. This store provides customers with quality western wear. We spoke with store owner, Rick Stanoff, who describes his goal to “provide a western lifestyle to every person that walks through the doors.”
Rick is a native Californian who grew up in the San Fernando Valley with a community that embraced working land. Before Country General Store came along, his father started the business in 1956 as an army and navy store, which carried camping goods, military items, and work clothing for the community. In 1972, his father passed away at a very young age. Rick was 18 years old at the time and stepped into the family business and dropped out of college. He said, “I didn’t know much about the backend of the business such as invoices and day-to-day stuff, but I found a way and continued running the operation as an army and navy store until 1975. At that time, I felt confident enough to introduce a western lifestyle.” Rick started the new business slowly, but soon after began introducing more western products. Since the late ’90s, Rick has been an authorized Lucchese dealer. He said, “I have had the good fortune of running with some of the best, finest American-made products, which has instilled not only a lifestyle for myself, but also my customers who purchase these items.”
You get to host a number of events and television shows at the Country General. Tell us about some memorable moments.
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Van Nuy’s boulevard had “Cruise Night” where you would see films like American Graffiti. One of the most memorable moments is when we closed down the store to shoot a segment of Father’s Day with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. We had such a wonderful time with these actors. We do have many filmings in the store and provide a lot of wardrobe for the entertainment industry.
I also have had the opportunity with conversing with my customers from all around the world. We have such a wide variety of people who come into the store. Some feel as if they’re not in Southern California – they feel like they’re in Texas or Montana. I will get letters from these customers who will travel back home that are abroad and tell us about their experience of being in the store. These are people who come in to buy specific products that they are not able to buy elsewhere.
Tell us about western fashion in Southern California.
California is not a western lifestyle; however, Country General provides that western lifestyle for California. I build many classic Lucchese boots that are very edgy, rock and roll, traditional, but classy. Working with Lucchese gives me the ability to work with the finest leathers that are available. I like to provide a lot of color and different toe and heel profiles. When people put their boots on, they tell me that everywhere I go, people stop me and say, “What a cool looking boot.” Fashion is all over the board in California. My Lucchese boots really stand out and bring attention to the product.
What is your goal for the store and your customers?
There is a passion that drives me here every day. We work with so many different lifestyles of people whether it’s the entertainment industry or day-to-day people coming in. It’s providing customer service that goes far beyond and making friends. I have had three to almost four generations of customers coming through my doors. My employees are exceeding about 35 years here and know the product in and out. The goal is to provide a western lifestyle to every person that walks through the doors.
How did you get into boots?
As a little boy, I always wore cowboy boots. Cowboy boots are fun – it’s a conversation piece. You have something to brag about and people get excited about it. That’s the fun part about building custom boots. The workmanship that Lucchese puts out is far better than anything I’ve ever seen. I’m fortunate to work with a company that is detail oriented because I’m very specific how I like my boots to look on a shelf. I’m thrilled to be in something like this that gives me that excitement on a day-to-day basis.
What do you feel every day when you put on your Lucchese boots?
It’s the fit of a Lucchese boot that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s such a different fit from any other manufacturer out there. Lucchese is the only boot I wear seven days a week. It’s fun to go into my closet because I have many colorful boots. You stand tall in your Lucchese boots.
When you put on a pair of cowboy boots, you don’t look like everybody else in California. People tend to notice them a lot more here and are willing to stop you on the street and ask where you got them. Lucchese provides me with the ammunition that I am able to give to my customers to make them embrace a western lifestyle. My customers have become Lucchese boot collectors. Some customers own between 12-36 pair.
It’s the feeling of what boots do to the person wearing the boot. They know it was especially made for them. It’s a class act. That’s the fun part of this business is you can be so creative. You can’t find that anywhere except here at the Country General!