Leslie Wexner: We open a store in San Francisco. I’m there for the opening and pre-opening and design and setting up the store. And about a block away there’s a small lingerie store, and the ladies in the store say, “You have to go see it. It’s really kind of interesting.” I went down there and it was interesting. It was probably 800 square feet, and it was kind of Victorian. It was like velvet sofas and — it wasn’t Victorian from England. It was American Victorian. So it’s a Tiffany lampshades kind of a place.
But it was interesting, and I just never had seen anything like it, and I called the owner up. I said, “Gee, next time I’m in San Francisco, I’d like to meet you.” And he said, “What do you do?” and I told him I had the store down the street. And he said, “I don’t want to meet you because you just want to understand my secrets, and you’d probably want to start a business and put me out of business.” I said, “No, I’m just curious,” which I was.
And about a year later I get a phone call. The guy says, “This is Roy Raymond. Remember, we had the phone conversation?” I said, “Oh, yeah.” And he said, “Would you be interested in buying my business?” So it was his idea, not mine. I said, “I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about the lingerie business but we haven’t done anything. We’re very busy doing things.” And he said, “Well, if you want to buy it, you could buy it, but you have to come right away.” And I said, “Well, maybe I’ll be out in a week or two.” He said, “No, the sheriff’s going to shut me down tomorrow. So if you want to buy the business, you got to come out right now.”
So I said okay and just went out and met him. The first time I met him, he told me about his business. He’d started it as a master’s project, not unlike the way Fred Smith started Federal Express. And he was going broke. He said, “If you want to buy the business, here’s what I have and if we can come to an agreement, I’ll call the sheriff and tell him not to shut me down.”