Business Person of the Month: Ma Petite

Ma Petite
2561 Citiplace Court,
Suite 400
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Charlotte Petitjean Gulotta,
Janelle Earle,
Phone (225) 928-4496

Charlotte Petitjean Gulotta introduced Baton Rouge to the petite fashion market by opening Ma Petite in Catfish Town in 1984. Ma Petite was the first and, at the time, only petite specialty store in Baton Rouge. Petite fashion caters to the clothing and accessory needs of women 5’ 4’’ and under and is not age specific. For example, customers of Ma Petite range in age from 16 to 90 years old. The common denominator for the classification of petite is height not size. Statistics show that 53 percent of women are petite. Whether you’re a size 2 or 14, if you are 5 feet 4 inches or shorter, you are considered petite. Petites can wear any style as long as the fit is proportional. Proper scaling of the clothes to the figure can create the illusion of height. Petite clothing is fashionable, modern and classic. Ma Petite carries designer names and more moderately priced items.

“In our petite business, we have an added challenge of educating women that they are petite. By purchasing fashions designed specifically for petites, you can save yourself not only the cost of expensive alterations, but also the frustration of shopping. We want our customers to enjoy shopping and to look their best” says Charlotte.

Charlotte received an RN degree in nursing from University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL)  in 1973. After graduation she worked part-time three days a week at Hotel Dieu in New Orleans as a nurse. Charlotte began her career in the retail business in 1979 when she opened Ruffles ‘N Britches, a children’s store, in Plaquemine, as a hobby while continuing her career in nursing. When Catfish Town opened in 1984, she expanded her retail business into the Baton Rouge market by opening the second location of Ruffles ‘N Britches. Ma Petite made its debut at the same time. Ruffles ‘N Britches and Ma Petite both moved to Village Square in 1986. Charlotte saw the need for a petite dress store long before she opened Ma Petite. When she would go to market for children’s clothes, her sales staff would ask her to bring back petite dresses for them since they were hard to find in Baton Rouge. Charlotte eventually decided to move out of the children’s wear business and concentrate solely on the petite clothing store. In 2003, Charlotte sold Ruffles ‘N Britches and moved Ma Petite to its current location in Citiplace Court on Corporate Blvd.

Charlotte began working full-time as an owner-employee in the store because, as she says, “No self-owned business runs itself. If you want to open a business, be ready to give it 110 percent. You’ll work very hard, but you’ll enjoy the challenge.” One also needs to be able to spend quality time with family and her capable staff allows Charlotte to find that quality time with her husband and three daughters.

Our customers’ shopping experience is always made special and fun through our staff’s service and expertise. “Janelle Earle, Manager of Ma Petite, has been with me for 23 years and she’s indispensable. She has become a member of our family,” says Charlotte. Janelle regards every person who walks through the door as a challenge. They may ask, “Where are your dresses?”, but figuring out what they want is the real question. She wants to find the customer the right outfit for the occasion, not just sell them a dress. The staff is also willing to tell the customer the truth about the fit and look of an item on them. There is no hard sell, they always tell the truth. Ma Petite customers like to shop with people they know and the staff is dedicated to the people and care about them. Alterations are offered by Faye Downey; she is available on site Tuesday and Friday from 2:30 to 5:00.

“I’ve learned a lot about running a business – advertising, management, construction, janitorial and a lot more, but the most pleasure comes from the wonderful people and families you meet,” continues Charlotte. “Thank you Baton Rouge for over 28 years of success.”

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