“The Foxy Lady was successful because it served everybody. We did ‘Rent,’ we did Don Johnson’s costumes. We served the regular straight people. We’ve been in the gay parade. We did Carnaval,” said Janine Dominski, longtime owner of the Foxy Lady Boutique.
“It catered to everybody and everybody’s personality, whether they were a different color or a different gender,” Dominski said.
But after 40 years, the building with the tarnished yellow awning and the cherry-red vinyl boots that attract sideways glances from Mission Street is closing its doors for good on Nov. 30.
At 74 years of age, Dominski decided to close the store, citing health issues that are slowing her down.
The Foxy Lady was probably best known for offering a collection of plus-size shoes and outfits that made it a destination for San Francisco’s drag queen community.
“She’s catered to all those big old guys. She carried shoes in size 13’s and 14’s,” said Empress Marlena, the owner of Marlena’s, a bar in Hayes Valley. In 1990, Marlena was the 25th Empress for the Imperial Council of San Francisco, a nonprofit organization dedicated to activism and charity work in the LGBT community.
“People go in and ask for her,” Marlena said of Dominski. “She’s personable, which is very important.”
At the Foxy Lady, men curious about drag could find a friendly, supportive staff, Marlena said. It was that same attitude of respect and trust that brought in women who had had mastectomies and needed breast forms.
“I dearly love her. She has definitely made a niche in the community and served the community,” Marlena said.
For some, the Foxy Lady is a reminder of the impact that Internet shopping has on how people buy things.
“With the advent of being able to buy stuff online, it renders the store a little bit redundant,” said Heklina, a performer who for the past 16 years has hosted Trannyshack, a drag show that incorporates “everything from low-brow trash to high-brow performance art.”
Despite running a show that uses lots of costumes, Heklina was not a regular customer at the Foxy Lady.
“Truthfully, I buy all my stuff in Los Angeles,” Heklina said, citing a “generational difference” between herself and Dominski, as well as the advent of online shopping.
But Dominski said that neither the generation gap nor Internet commerce played a significant role in the decision to close her store.
“I would have been here another 10 years if I wasn’t getting surgery,” said Dominski in her usual gruff but polite voice.
On a recent November afternoon, Doris Corrales stood in the Foxy Lady, some of its shelves even more bare than the mannequins still modeling corsets and lingerie — for now.
Corrales has worked at the Foxy Lady for the past 10 years and recalls days when the three-stall dressing room was simultaneously occupied by a woman trying on skimpy lingerie, a man dressed in drag, and a churchgoer sizing herself in one of the glittery beaded gowns that often sold to parishioners.
“The closing is going to be very sad for the community,” Corrales said. “It’s the only place that sold that kind of stuff.”