By any measure, Judy Klabouch is a very successful woman. She has a beautiful family including three grown children and five granddaughters, a very prosperous and successful career in business but perhaps her greatest contribution is that throughout the decades, she has consistently given much more than she has received.
Klabouch runs a successful business but is perhaps more recognized for her enormous generosity and her outstanding commitment to community. And, when you explore Klabouch’s success, buried deep within is a heart rendering tale of the community coming to her rescue early in her career and then a lifelong effort to return the gift.
So if there was ever an example of the idyllic American Dream it is indeed Judy’s story.
Moreover, the success of her business, Green Street Interiors, exemplifies a scantly utilized principle that you can truly succeed by giving more than you take.
The Los Al Chamber and the City of Los Alamitos both recognized her achievement of operating her business for 40 consecutive years at their regular meeting on Friday. “Not only has she been successful, but she has treated this community with the utmost respect for her entire career,” said Chamber President Emil Jorge. “Four decades in business is a milestone in itself,” he added.
Los Alamitos Mayor Shelley Hasselbrink also thanked Klabouch for her service saying she ‘has always been there’ when the city needed help. While Klabouch is currently on top of the world, it hasn’t always been that way. Forty years ago, when she started her business, her fate seemed far less certain.
To be sure, not many women had the opportunity to go into business in 1977. And, with only, $4000 to invest, it was a huge risk. For her, it was like pushing away from the dock with few provisions and a heavy heart but Klabouch then, and now, is a determined woman.
“I didn’t know what kind of business I wanted,” but I knew I wanted to be in business.
She thought about starting a housekeeping business. Maybe babysitting or maybe a nursery?
But start a business she did, even if she could only afford a ramshackle, condemned building on Green Street (thus the name). After improving her business location as much as she could, she eventually got her start by acquiring carpet, wallpaper and flooring for homeowners but received only a commission for the installed materials.
She survived the first year, but 18 months in, Judy’s future looked dim.
Her kids were growing. She and her husband were separated and on the way to divorce. She had a mortgage she couldn’t always pay. She had a location but was about to lose it to nonpayment.
Then, one day in 1978, Klabouch could take no more. “I fell to pieces,” she said, when on a fateful day her friend and News Enterprise publisher and saleswoman Susan Haggard showed up to pick up her usual ad to run on Page 3.
“I broke down and told her I had no money for advertising, no money for rent and no money to pay bills for the business. I cried like a baby,” Judy said.
To her surprise, her friend Susan of course comforted her but slowly, and surely, reached for her purse. Still sobbing, Judy watched in shocked apprehension as Susan reached into the purse, grabbed her checkbook and looked up.
Without saying a word, Susan started to write. She wrote Judy’s name on the check. Then she filled it in. “She told me her aunt had left her some money and ‘until today, I didn’t know why.’”
And with that, she handed Judy a check for $10,000, which according to official inflation calculators, would be worth almost $40,000 in 2017.
“I told her I didn’t want to take it,” said Judy, but Susan insisted that it was now in her heart that the money had been left to her to help someone and that someone was Judy.
To Judy, the gift that was “beyond kindness” set her on a path to survival, then superstardom in the world of interior design. Today, she insists it simply “demonstrates what kind of a wonderful community this has been and is today. “If you need help, you can find it.”
Judy took the money, paid her rent, paid her mortgage, caught up on some personal items for the family but also purchased a pallet of wood flooring, which was then new to the market.
She bought ads in the News Enterprise. The wood flooring started to fly off the pallet at Green Street. She sold the entire pallet. Then another. Then another. And, in three months, she paid Susan back and her business never looked back.
Remarkably, Judy’s daughter Karen has been there for 30 of her mom’s 40 years in business. Karen says her mom always found a way to make things work, both at home and at work. Klabouch calls Karen “the next generation of Green Street.”
Green Street Interiors is certainly well known in this area but also known around the world. Judy and Karen have decorated homes, penthouses, hotels, and even wineries, around the world.
“If we had 100 people like Judy,” said former (Los Alamitos ) Mayor and Councilman Richard Murphy, “we could rule the world. “She doesn’t talk, she does,” he said. Klabouch, and her daughter Karen, are both treasures to the community, he said.
In addition to running her business, Judy has raised three children, now adults, and she has served as President of the Los Al Chamber and on many boards and commissions. Klabouch is also recognized for helping Mildred Jones found the Casa Youth Shelter for teenagers in Crisis. “My success goes to show that if you treat people right, have the right intent and do things for the right reasons, the community will support you,” she said.
Even after 40 years, don’t mention the word retirement to Klabouch. “When you see them carrying me out, then you’ll know I’m done. “There’s so much more to do.”