By Lisa Dante
Artistic expertise, attention to detail, an eye for beauty, self-made design skills and unmatched customer service are only a few words that begin to describe Master Furrier and designer, Gerardo Zavala.
He and his beautiful wife, Nereida, “Nelly,” are natives of Coahuila, Mexico and came to San Antonio in the early 1980s. The handsome couple, have built a very successful business that started with only a dream.
It’s the tale of a true success story that started back in the 1960s in Laredo. A young Gerardo became fascinated with furs while working after school in his uncle’s fur shop. Eventually, at the age of fourteen he convinced his mother to let him go to Alaska togain further training and knowledge in order to perfect his God -given talent in design and manufacturing. Zavala apprenticed in Alaska with David Green, whose reputation as one of the best renowned furriers in the world, allowed Zavala to learn from a true master! News of Green’s incredible talent and his apprentice Zavala’s eye for design spread worldwide and Green’s skills were soon sought out by socialites, celebrities and entertainers. Through Green, Zavala was able to contribute his talents to help manufacture Willie Nelson’s signature buffalo coat, along with Larry Hagman’s timber wolf coat.
After spending seventeen years in Alaska, Zavala moved to San Antonio, Texas to apprentice with internationally acclaimed
couture designer, Michael Mouratidis, who designed for the Kennedys and Elizabeth Taylor.
It was only after the passing of Mr. Mouratidis that the self-made designer, Zavala and his wife were inspired to bring Gerardo’s own dream to life and open his own salon. The Zavala’s have three beautiful daughters, Angela, Lourdes and Tiffany. Angela, is involved in the marketing of the business through social media, and Lourdes is a university fashion design student.
Elegant Furs, LLC was born in 2005 on Broadway Avenue in San Antonio. And only four years after that, because of the Zavala’s thriving business, a much needed expansion was necessary, and a new location was found. Gerardo and Nelly, who is an instrumental part of the business, bought the Ram Building at 4434 Blanco Road in the heart of San Antonio, and thus, the designers salon, Elegant Furs, had a new location.
“We now had a much bigger and luxurious space, to not only showcase our many custom designs, but we also increased our very affordable, climate controlled storage area to the largest in San Antonio! We were also able to better showcase our accessory line, which includes handbags, hats, gloves, scarves, wraps, boots, shoes and much more. Our home furnishings area, increased too, with one -of-a kind pillows and fur blankets. Most importantly, our space for designing and our elegant, yet comfortable consultation area for fittings was expanded in order to provide privacy and the best personal and detailed customer service the industry has to offer,” says Zavala.
Many customers bring in family heirloom pieces that have been handed down through generations, wanting Zavala to work his designer skill and magic in re-styling the fur for themselves, or the next generation.“I DON’T want my clients to LIKE my work, I want them to LOVE it!
That’s why I treat everyone who walks through the door of my salon as family. Clients have remarkable stories about special garments and they come straight from the heart. I take great care and concern to make sure that I am creating what is best for my clients. It’s very important to me,” says Zavala.
Of course there are many new pieces to choose from. The natural pieces include mink, silver and gray fox, chinchilla, lynx, Persian lamb, Russian sable and much more. The range of color is really anything you can imagine. Most of the pieces are manufactured on site. There are also cleaning, appraisal and repair services, of not only fur, but leather, as well. This remarkable couple, hand in hand has built an astonishingly successful business based on quality, care, customer service and affordability. It truly is the American Dream come true!