Bestswimwear has opened in the former Diane’s Beachwear site at 5239 E. Second St. in Belmont Shore, and according to Diane’s founder Diane Biggs, “the passing of the baton will appear seamless to customers.”
The Belmont Shore Diane’s opened in 1972 and was the second of 36 stores in five states, including Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Palm Springs.
The business has come a long way. In 1962, a custom bikini cost $12, the order was made upstairs in the original Manhattan Beach store, and three days later it was ready to be picked up. While the stores have been closed during the pandemic, the most popular items ordered on line were for $90 bikini separates — that average a mere two inches by four inches in size.
Owner Diane Biggs is known in the industry as someone who has a natural talent for sniffing out the next beach fashion trend. She also led the way in a creating a “shopping experience” — window displays that look like resorts, plumeria-scented candles, vacation reggae music playing. She even admitted, “If I could have, I would have served customers Mai Tais.”
“Women take two weeks to get ready to purchase a bikini — they lose a couple of pounds, get a spray tan, make sure they are having a good hair day and then they might spend two hours trying on different designs to get just the right combination,” according to Biggs, who has helped five generations of women look their best on the beach. She tells the story of a 90-year-old customer in a wheelchair who was just as keen about fit as her teenage counterparts.
“I might keep a couple of the stores and the website," Biggs said of her future. "Mostly, I want to help other women — mentoring them on opening shops using the tools I have to reinvent themselves to rethink and repackage what they are doing.”
She reflected a moment and said, “What I enjoyed most was getting a new store ready for the big reveal — removing the paper from the windows and seeing the look on customers' faces as they peered in for the first time.”
Diane’s Beachwear 50-year chapter on Second Street ends just as Bestswimwear begins.
Diane’s daughter Bari Lynn Thomas said, “It is a great story about how Diane’s and Bestswimwear are interrelated and how owner Greg Stager is going to keep specialty swimwear in the Belmont Shore area.”
“Greg knows the history of Diane’s well as we have sold his brand for years,” said Thomas, who worked with Stager’s wife Heidi at the Belmont Shore store as teenagers. She added, “We have been best friends since birth, since our moms went to high school together in Manhattan Beach. Heidi was my maid of honor and I was hers.”
Heidi Stager said she developed a strong emotional attachment to Belmont Shore as a 15-year-old. Even though she is no longer engaged in day-to-day operations of the company, she did insist upon quickly reopening the Second Street location.
Bestswimwear was founded in 1984 by Heidi’s mom Janette Van Doren and is a separates swimwear company. The company history is as generational as Diane’s; in 1987 the reins of the company passed from Van Doren to her son-in-law Greg Stager, Heidi’s husband.
The family-run business currently has a Hermosa Beach retail location as well as a gelato shop. (Stager recommends buying the bikini before you have the gelato.) The Stagers have raised their adopted and home-schooled family of seven children and have three grandchildren.
Greg Stager captured their excitement best. “We love Belmont Shore — people come for shopping, eating and ice creaming.”