Fashion May...a Boutique...J. Peterman

Times Staff Writer

J. Peterman co., the quirky mail-order catalog whose founder became a cultural icon after being parodied on the "Seinfeld" television series, will open its first west Coast boutique at Fashion Island Newport Beach in May.

The 5,000-square-foot store will sell clothes, accessories and home furnishings that appear in the company's three mail-order catalogs, plus a host of exotic gifts.

The Newport beach store is part of a five-year plan by the Lexington, Ky.-based company to open 50 boutiques and 20 outlet centers nationwide. Peterman now has four stores include an outlet in Camarillo.

"We want to be in the top 50 markets in the country and Newport Beach is definitely one of them," said Arnie Cohen, chief executive of Peterman.

The company was founded by John Peterman in 1987, but it didn't become a household name until name 1995, when comedian Jerry Seinfeld and other actors on the top-rated sitcom became enamored with the novella-like writing in the company's unconventional catalog. The amusing prose runs the gamut of styles, from storytelling to conversational to romantic, and accompanies sketches of garments instead of photographs.

The Peterman on "Seinfeld," played by actor John O'Hurley, is a stiff globe-trotting eccentric who is immaculately groomed and talks at length about subjects that bore his colleagues.

The exposure and notoriety that "Seinfeld" has brought to both the company and the man "has been terrific, and a whole lot of fun," said founder John Peterman, "But I like boots and jeans and canvas shirts, don't take myself too terribly seriously and I'll speak if spoken to."

The two Petermans do have one thing in common: a love of travel. The real Peterman just returned from a two-month expedition to Asia, which included a four-day trip on camels through the Thar desert in northwest India.

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