The year 1915 was one of major transitions for Anna and Laura
Tirocchi. Laura married a young American-born physician, Louis J.
Cella. Anna purchased the handsome house at 514 Broadway and moved
the couple, herself, and the sisters' business in. At the time,
the City Directory did not record any Italians in that stretch
of Broadway, or on the streets that intersected it. There were,
however, eleven dressmakers and seven tailors on the street, with
an even larger concentration of mens and ladies tailors
working a few blocks south, on Broad Street.
Once again, Madame Tirocchi, as Anna was known, had chosen a prime
location. The Butler Exchange building in downtown Providence had
had its early advantages, attracting new clients to the business.
With an established clientele, the sisters could now afford to move
to more gracious quarters.
The presence of dressmaking establishments in the area, along with
the proximity of Broadway to downtown Providence and the fashionable
East Side, where most of the Tirocchis local clients lived,
made the neighborhood a suitable one for the next phase of their
business. It was no accident that 514 Broadway was one of the largest
and most ornate on Broadway. Madame Tirocchi wanted to be able to
receive her genteel clientele in gracious surroundings that mirrored
their own homes and clubs.
Anna also seems to have had ambitions toward the couture, or custom
design, end of the dressmaking trade, and must have felt that an
elegant salon atmosphere would further this portion of her business.
She stocked luxurious fabrics, trims, and notions, which she acquired
from suppliers in Europe and New York City and on occasional buying
trips to Europe, and she fashioned original gowns from them. In
the Fall of 1926, Anna had announcements printed advertising the
Winter Collection. By this time, she was using the name Di Renaissance
for the shop and listing herself as manager. In the announcement,
she offered clients "Line, Color, Detail, Distinction, Individuality,"
fashion qualities that were hard to find in department stores. This
emphasis on individual attention and servicethe hallmark of
a successful dressmakerenabled her to remain in business during
a period of intense reorganization of the womens apparel industry.
Atmosphere mattered to the Tirocchis clients and undoubtedly
influenced their buying. Upon entering the house, clients would
be ushered past Dr. Cellas private office and the formal parlor,
or music room, and up the grand stairs to the second floor. The
dressmaking business completely occupied this floor, with showroom,
fitting rooms, office and stock rooms. The second floor functioned
as the public sphere where customers interacted with Anna, Laura,
and other shop employees.
Anna filled the showroom, or Billiard Room, with her precious silk
velvets, brocaded lamés, and laces. The billiard table was
often covered with artistically draped bolts of fabric for customers
to admire. Husbands would also wait in this room and would, at times,
uncover the table and pass the time playing billiards. Two fitting
rooms, called the Red Room and the Blue Room after the color of
the carpets, also occupied the second floor. These rooms were even
more comfortably furnished than the Billiard Room and were the rooms
in which the clients discussed their orders with Madame Tirocchi
and stood for their fittings.
In the first decade at 514 Broadway, the Tirocchi shop seemed to
do well. Customers enjoyed and appreciated the well-appointed rooms
of the shop, and the fact that the shop was located in a beautiful
home near their own neighborhood. Some customers even teased Anna
that her house was better than theirs was, but they clearly felt
at home in the atmosphere she had created for them. Her best clients
coveted her custom dressmaking services, and she still provided
all the traditional services expected of a seamstress. However,
ready-made clothing was becoming increasingly stylish and available,
and began to cut seriously into the shops business.
>> read on about The
Middle Years of the Business