Jews of Philly Fashion: Julie Margasak, Julie Ann Lewenthal

From left: Julie Margasak and Julie Ann Lewenthal
From left: Julie Margasak and Julie Ann Lewenthal (Courtesy of Julie’s Bottega)

It’s the newest edition of Jews of Philly Fashion, introducing you to the Chosen few who dress our city. They might mix wool and linen, but they’ve got some strong opinions on mixing stripes with florals. In this space, we’ll talk to designers, sellers, buyers, influencers, models and more. This week, we spoke to Julie Margasak and Julie Ann Lewenthal.

Julie’s Bottega, a women’s clothing boutique celebrating its 40th anniversary on April 1, could just as well be called Julies’ Bottega — after all, everyone who walks in the door has been served Julie Margasak, 80, and Julie Ann Lewenthal, 50, for decades.

The mother-daughter duo, according to Margasak, are both “in it for the same reasons: to accommodate customers, to dress people up, make them leave the store looking fabulous, go to a party, and everybody says how great they look, and where did you get the clothes? Julie’s Bottega.”

Margasak, who studied marketing and merchandising at Temple University, opened Julie’s Bottega on April 1, 1980, after spending the early part of her career working for Macy’s and Wanamaker’s, a stint that involved traveling the world as a foreign buyer.

The first iteration of the store was a tiny boutique at 191 Presidential Blvd. in Bala Cynwyd, which quickly became too small; soon, she moved to a significantly larger space down the road. All the while, her daughter was spending Saturdays helping her mother at the store.

Lewenthal has spent 25 years working full-time alongside her mother, as they moved from the larger space to their current location on Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, where they’ve been since the early ’90s.

So, what’s it like, working with your mother every day?

“Wonderful,” she said, which made her and her mother laugh. “We have good days and bad days.”

“Moments. Not even days,” Margasak clarified.

Good days, bad days or not, they’ve made it through a lot. Margasak recalls the difficulties for her business after 9/11, and again in the wake of the 2007-2008 market crash. With the coronavirus crisis, the physical store is closed, but Julie’s Bottega will offer clothing at a 20% discount, along with an ad-hoc curbside
delivery system.

“We are at your service during these unprecedented times,” their website reads. After all, when haven’t they been?

What is your favorite piece of clothing?

Lewenthal: A vintage Moschino jacket.

What clothing trend would you like to see make a comeback?

Both: Women dressing up.

And what trend are you content to leave in the past?   

Both: Baggy clothes.

What’s something you can’t believe you used to wear? 

Both: Shoulder pads.

Is there a current fashion trend that you detest?

Both: Ripped jeans.

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

Both: “Mommie Dearest”

What item of clothing should more people be wearing?

Both: A great sweater from Autumn Cashmere or Brodie.

What person’s style do you admire?

Both: Michelle Obama.

What talent would you most like to have?

Both: Singing.

What is your most defining characteristic?

Both: Creativity. We love dressing a woman so she can look and feel her best.

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