Menswear staple in Del Mar going on three fashionable decades

Yvonne DiChiara has owned Durante’s Menswear boutique for 29 years. Photo: Claire Harlin
Yvonne DiChiara has owned Durante’s Menswear boutique for 29 years. Photo: Claire Harlin

By Claire Harlin

There’s an intuitive art to helping men find the right outfit, says Yvonne DiChiara. And she should know — the Durante’s Menswear shop owner has been doing just that in Del Mar for 29 years and counting.

“Men don’t like to shop, so you have to ask a lot of questions and really understand them instead of throwing things at them,” said DiChiara, a Del Mar resident of more than 20 years. “You have to make sure what you give them is right for them, and the less you give them the better. Selling to a man is a psychology; it’s an emotional connection.”

It’s that connection that has kept loyal customers coming back to Durante’s, located at 1412 Camino Del Mar, for decades.

DiChiara has kept the shop consistent since its beginnings in the early 1980s, providing what she describes as “updated but traditional clothing and beach wear.”

She said Durante’s has become a tradition for both locals and tourists who visit Del Mar frequently.

“A lot of people, they come to town and eat at the same places and shop at the same places,” she said. “They know what they like and they come in and they tell me they always have to buy something when they come to town. They tell me, ‘I have to get a shirt every year.’”

DiChiara said her consistent quality and moderate pricing keeps people coming back, as well as her expertise and the time she spends with each customer.

“I remember everyone who comes in here. I remember people who came in a year ago and I remember what they bought and what they liked,” said DiChiara, who rightfully calls herself a “clothing consultant.”

DiChiara has a degree in textiles and fashion design, but before opening Durante’s she had no idea she would end up specializing in men’s clothing. The opportunity came to her one day when she was riding her bike through Del Mar and stopped in the former women’s clothing shop, Kobo. The owner at the time had a small menswear section of that store that was doing well, and wanted to open a separate store, she said.

“I mentioned I wanted to open a clothing shop, that I had experience as a buyer in New Jersey, and he asked if I wanted to go into business,” she said. “I was hesitant with men’s but I thought, ‘Why not?’ and it was the only men’s shop for years. It was a great decision.”

She said the name was the idea of the man who drew the renderings for plans to upgrade the shop’s front door in the 1980s. She loved the name recognition associated with Jimmy Durante, and “it ended up being a great name,” she said.

DiChiara said she has enjoyed working on Camino Del Mar almost every day over the years and seeing the area evolve, but what she loves most about Del Mar is that it hasn’t changed too much — and she’d like it to stay that way.

“Del Mar has kept a lot of its tradition. You can’t get rid of the beauty of Del Mar and the Village atmosphere,” she said. “That’s why people come here, because of the relaxed atmosphere, because our beaches are pretty, because they like our shops.”

“I hope it stays the way it is,” she said. “I want to be here for another 29 years.”

For more information, call (858) 755-0116.