They dance, they smile. They wear vintage gowns, sparkly jewelry and old-fashioned fur wraps and stoles.
In every season of the year, they boogie on Main Street in Gloversville. Once they unrolled a real red carpet downtown right across the middle of the avenue and sashayed in their finery.
Meet the Glamour Girls Society, an informal group of women with a mission to have some fun while they boost a city that stumbled into hard times after more than a half century as America’s capital of glove-making.
“We help other businesses get started. We help people in the community,” says Sally Brien, the unofficial leader of the group and operator of Antiques N Uniques, a shop on North Main Street.
“We’re really trying to do wonderful things for the city,” says Christine Kennedy, a fellow Glamour Girl.
“It’s fun. We get to dress up. And we do a lot with the community. It’s really a great bunch of girls,” says Bonnie Duhame, another Glamour Girl.
Last month, for Valentine’s Day, 20 women created and staged an “I Love Lucy” variety show at the Gloversville Performing Arts Center. The lighthearted show and an auction raised $760 for a campaign to repair the marquee on the historic Glove Theatre, which is part of the Arts Center.
“We pulled it together in two weeks,” says Brien.
Honoring vets & more
The Glamour Girls, who are mostly in their 40s, 50s and 60s, have saluted local soldiers on Veterans Day for two years in a row.
Dressed in old military uniforms, they sing and dance for the veterans as the soldiers march in the annual parade.
“Then we go out to Applebee’s, we have a big luncheon for the vets. We shake their hands,” says Brien, the widow of an Air Force veteran. “I just love to hear the guys’ stories and meet their wives. It just tugs at my heart.”
In September, the Glamour Girls donned wide-brimmed, pastel-colored hats and served tea at a community event to honor a Gloversville woman who opened a tea business in Connecticut.
At “Rock Around the Christmas Tree,” a December event, the women set up 10 rocking chairs outdoors around a decorated tree in front of Brien’s antiques shop.
“We were all dolled up. We all wore our furs. We actually danced around the Christmas tree,” says Brien.
For Halloween, they dress up like glitzy Glindas and wickedly elegant witches and give out candy.
“Young people come out. We give prizes,” she says.
Hearts in right place
In the 18 months since the group got its start, they’ve put on 11 events, most of them outdoors, to grab the attention of anyone who happens by.
“I’m so impressed with Sally and the Glamour Girls and what they do downtown,” says Mark Kilmer, president and CEO of the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“It doesn’t benefit them individually, they do it to benefit the community,” Kilmer says.
“They are out there smiling, laughing, joking. Their heart is with the community.”
Gloversville Mayor Dayton King has attended some of their events.
“They definitely help the downtown area and pride in general in Gloversville. I encourage people to check them out,” says King.
The Glamour Girls Society was born in September 2012 when 40 women showed up and performed in a “street theater” event called “Glamour Girls on Main Street” outdoors at the grand opening of Brien’s antiques shop.
Dressed in vintage clothing, they did a skit that featured cops and antique cars. There were belly dancers, an Elvis Presley tribute artist and live music by the Galaxy band.
“They had a real red carpet that went across the street. People were invited to come and watch. It was just wonderful,” Brien says.
The women had so much fun that they wanted to do it again, so Glamour Girls became a group.
There are 42 female members, but no officers, dues, rules or headquarters.
“We do everything on Facebook. Anybody can throw out an idea,” says Brien.
Some of the members have serious singing, dancing or theater experience, but most, including Brien, do not.
“Anyone is welcome. We would prefer to bring young women in. We’re not getting any younger,” jokes the 68-year-old Brien, who describes herself as “the kooky idea person.”
‘Little ol’ hometown’
For Brien, running the shop and becoming a Glamour Girl brightened her life after some dark years.
A Gloversville native, Brien left the city when she was young. She went to Skidmore College and lived in Saratoga Springs for awhile.
For many years, she lived in Delanson with her husband, William Brien, who was a manager in the gas turbine division at General Electric.
The couple also ran Very Merry Berry Farm, an antiques and crafts business in Delanson.
In 2000, William suffered complications after a heart transplant. After five years in a hospital and nursing home, he died at age 65. Crushed by medical bills, Sally lost her home and their business.
When she moved back to Gloversville to care for her aging mother, she saw a city that desperately needed a lift.
“I was very distraught about it. I decided it was time to give back. This is my little ol’ hometown,” she says.
Brien, who has a daughter, a son and a grandson, worked for nine years at Stewart’s before retiring.
With her 40 years of experience in antiques, the new shop has become her passion.
“When I opened this business, it was through the grace of God,” she says, sitting on a wire chair surrounded by a charming array of china, glassware, paintings, furniture, lamps and bric-a-brac.
She is forever thankful to the Glamour Girls for giving her a kick-start.
“They mean everything to me,” she says.
Brien wants to keep that spirit of kindness alive in Gloversville.
“We need to be kind to each other. We need to share,” she says.
“You grow when you extend yourself to others.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.