Vignette > Banana Republic

There are now over 500 Banana Republic stores in the US and 100 more in other countries. The first store was in Mill Valley. Mel and Patricia Ziegler worked for the San Francisco Chronicle.  He was a reporter. She was an illustrator. They lived in an apartment on Russian Hill. In 1978, they quit their jobs, moved to Tamalpais Valley. They wanted to start a business for income.  But first, Mel received a magazine assignment to explore Australia for a few weeks with other journalists. While there, he bought a war surplus British Burma jacket.  Patricia was impressed with its high quality fabric and its four pockets.  “Why not sell clothing like that?”  They founded Banana Republic to do just that.  They located a jobber, essentially a junk dealer, and bought his entire stock of 500 Spanish Civil War Army paratroop shirts for $1.50 each. The first time at the Marin City Sunday flea market they priced the shirts at $6.50 and sold only 5. The following Sunday they priced the shirts at $12.95 and sold 102. That put them in business. They rented the ground floor of a 2-story building at 76 East Blithedale for retail and catalog sales.  Banana Republic “Travel & Safari Clothing” rapidly expanded. The Gap purchased it in 1983.