A business named after Mom, run by the family

COSTA MESA — Those who know Alan Gladstone have, on more than one occasion, heard him utter the phrase, "We sell steak cheap, not cheap steak."

The catchy slogan, however, has nothing to do with the beef or restaurant industry. Rather, those words form the slogan of Anna's Linens, the Costa Mesa-based chain of discounted luxury textile stores that the Newport Beach resident founded 24 years ago.

For more than two decades, Gladstone, a 63-year-old Michigan-born entrepreneur, has followed a mission to "take care of all people who want fashion and quality, but at a fair price."

In 1987, Gladstone named his fledgling store, which opened in Los Angeles, after his mother, Anna Gladstone. She instilled in him the value of remembering to treat all customers and employees like family. Anna acted as the company's goodwill ambassador until her death in 2002.

"My mother treated everyone the same," Gladstone said. "She didn't care who you were. She thought that everyone was a good person and they were treated that way."

"As hokey as it sounds, that's how we run Anna's," Gladstone continued. "Everyone — from the customers, every stock boy and associate — we say everyone is part of Anna's family."

Gladstone's daughter Carie Doll acts as the company's executive vice president of marketing and merchandising, son Scott Gladstone as the executive vice president and chief operations officer, and brother-in-law Mike Harnetiaux as the chief administrative officer.

Gladstone's original dream was to open 100 stores. As of July, Anna's Linens had 275 stores in 19 states, with a goal of reaching 300 stores by February.

"When you have one store, 100 stores in inconceivable," Gladstone said. "Now the dream is to have 1,000 stores."

Anna's Linens is one of the lone specialty textile merchants still standing. At one point, the industry was saturated with textile retailers, but wholesalers and department stores such as Walmart and J.C. Penney reshaped the market, Gladstone said.

As other major textile merchants, such as Linens 'n Things, closed their doors, Gladstone pushed forward with his "steak cheap, not cheap steak" philosophy.

"We knew that value was going to rule the day," Gladstone said.

The company reported $360 million in annual revenue in 2010 and projects to pulling well above $400 million in 2011, Gladstone said.

Store locations average 9,500 square feet with about 12 employees.

"Cheap goods at a cheap price is wrong," Gladstone said. "You can always take quality out of a product to make it cheaper, but is that giving a customer better value? I think not."

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