Stepping into Janeen Gongola’s shop in downtown Solvang is like discovering the coolest sock drawer ever.

More than 1,000 styles of socks, as well as jewelry, purses, scarves, shoelaces, wallets, flip-flop shoes and other accessories are jam-packed inside her cozy shop. The store has socks for everyone, from little socks for babies to large socks for men.

 

“When young girls come in — about sixth grade through college age — and they get so excited over the selection that they practically start hyperventilating, well, that makes my day,” Gongola says.

Whether you are interested in holiday-themed socks, short socks, tall socks, striped socks, polka dots — you get the idea — this place is the spot for you.

“I try to carry as many socks that are made in the U.S. that I can,” Gongola says. “But we also have some interesting socks from Japan, Sweden and Italy. I order from 50 different sock vendors, and we are working on a Web site to sell socks online.”

 

Socks have evolved over the centuries from the earliest models, which were made from animal skins gathered up and tied around the ankles, to today’s cotton versions. 

According to a history of the sock, posted online by an Australian sock company called Holeproof, in the 8th Century BCE, the ancient Greeks wore socks made from matted animal hair for warmth. Ah, no thanks.

 

Socks are the great equalizer. Everyone owns them, everyone wears them and everyone needs them. The Sock Loft is a good place to buy them.

 

The Journal caught up with Janeen Gongola to talk to her about her business.

 

SYVJ: Why did you start this business?

JG: I have wanted a store of my own for 20 years. I saw a sock store in Carmel seven years ago and thought what a good idea it was. Socks are fun! In this economy, socks are a practical gift that doesn’t break the bank.

 

SYVJ: How do you feel about running a business in this economic climate?

JG: Well, I opened this business seven months ago. I couldn’t wait for the elections to be over because I felt it would get better after that. You just have to go for it and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. It’s a little like poker — bluff a little, play the cards you are dealt and hope for the best.

 

SYVJ: What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

JG: The scare of the economy and the bad publicity about the economy that is out there. People don’t know what they are supposed to do. Are they supposed to save or spend to stimulate the economy?

 

SYVJ: What is the simplest thing you’ve never learned to do?

It would have to be something technical. What’s that little thing called for your cell phone while you are driving? Bluetooth. I bought one, programmed it and am afraid to use it.

 

SYVJ: What sets your business apart from your competitors?

JG: I think we’re pretty versatile. I carry clip earrings but I have things for young people, too. I have always been told I have an eye for buying what other people like.

 

SYVJ: Who is the smartest person you know?

JG: My husband, Tom. He works for United Launch Alliance at Vandenberg Air Force Base. He also worked for General Motors for 20 years as an engineer. He is also a realtor at Coldwell Banker in Santa Ynez.

 

SYVJ: Where do you see your business one year from now?

JG: I would love to be on the main strip on Copenhagen in Solvang, doubling the size.

 

SYVJ: Where do you see your business in five years?

JG: We would love it if we had a second store in Santa Barbara downtown.

 

SYVJ: Finally, what is on your to-do list?

JG: Oh wow. That’s an ongoing thing. There’s a lot — create a Web site and research.

 

Business name: The Sock Loft

Owner: Janeen Gongola

Business address: 475 First St., Suite 2, Solvang 93463

Business telephone: (805) 686-0135

Business hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except in January and February, when it is closed on Tuesdays

E-mail address: janeen.gongola

@yahoo.com