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Shirt store fits this pair to a T

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

Beginning as a way to pay for rock-star dreams, clothing sales become a passion for couple.

September 12, 2007|By Rachel Kane

Husband-and-wife business owners Resa and Raul Rossell are trying to bring a boutique feel to the simplest of garments.

They have stocked their West Olive Avenue store, Lemon Rags, with a fancier version of the wardrobe staple, the cotton T-shirt, and only the cotton T-shirt, with the exception of a few hats and spaghetti-strap tops.

“You don’t stumble in here to buy jeans and end up getting a T-shirt,” Raul Rossell said.

The store is a T-shirt destination with a wide selection of hard-to-find items and celebrity favorites.

They even have a wall of fame next to the entrance to the small shop, where stars like Jennifer Love Hewitt and George Lopez have autographed the wall.

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Lemon Rags is doing so well with patrons from Burbank and beyond that this month the Rossells expect to open their second location in Studio City after two years of exclusively doing business in Burbank.

But the couple, married eight years, couldn’t have predicted their success when they first opened the place as a recording studio six years ago.

Resa Rossell, who is originally from Burbank and grew up in the city, was working in the fashion industry, and Raul Rossell was working in film distribution.

“We were trying to think of a way for me to leave my old job and get the studio up and running,” he said. “During the day we sold T-shirts and stuff, and then at night we could run the studio.”

Soon their excuse for having studio space became a real reason for conducting business.

“It’s all about the T-shirts now,” Resa Rossell said.

Following Raul Rossell’s love of rock ’n’ roll and in the spirit of anti-corporate independence the store’s slogan is “Corporate retail still sucks,” taken from a T-shirt Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain wore on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine that read, “Corporate Magazines Still Suck.”

The store also has a no-bag policy. When a customer makes a purchase they are handed a receipt, a small package of Lemonheads candy and their merchandise.

Bags are available only upon request as the Rossells’ way of combating waste.

Longtime customer Tevia Celli, 43, of Burbank doesn’t mind not getting a bag to take her T-shirts home in.

“I think it’s great,” Celli said. “They’re helping the environment by doing that. It’s just a really great policy.”

Celli owns a gym in West Hollywood and has been working out in the store’s soft Burn-Out tees for about a year and a half.

The Burn-Out tees are about $25 each, but the price ranges in the store’s merchandise run from $20 to $100 on the sticker, Raul Rossell said.

By the end of November the couple expect to start selling more than T-shirts with a Lemon Rags brand of tote bags, hats and bracelets — but no bottoms.

“We’re trying to stay above the waist,” he said.

As for the studio space behind their industrial-design decorated, disco-ball-lit storefront — it’s being dismantled soon along with Raul Rossell’s dreams of rock stardom and record business success.

But his old passion has been replaced by a new one, to his surprise.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to do. I thought I would be a record engineer and I ended up selling T-shirts.”

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