The Magazine of South Carolina

If the Swimsuit's a Winna, It Must Be a Grinna

Tara Grinna's brochure states, "ALL SWIMWEAR IS MADE IN THE USA." Better than that, it's made at her plant in Horry County!

by Belinda Long

Taking risks has led Conway swimwear designer Tara Grinna to big success.

Moving from Florida, where she worked as a designer at Second Skin Swimwear, to Conway was a leap of faith. But "I just never thought about it not working," Tara says, smiling.

Before the 1987 opening day at La Plage, her custom swimwear shop in Myrtle Beach, she stayed up all night sewing the 12 suits she needed to start her business.

Growing up in a conservative small town, Tara once believed careers in exciting fields like fashion and design were impossible for ordinary people. She considered pursuing a law degree, but finally decided to go with her heart. She studied design in Fort Lauderdale, then began living the dream of that small-town girl, designing swimsuits for notables such as Ethel Kennedy.

With the help of her mother and two seamstresses, Tara's swimwear store flourished. Unfortunately, Myrtle Beach's swimsuit business only booms during May, June and July. Tara's shop had three months of craziness packed with appointments, turning potential customers away, and nine months of twiddling thumbs. She put the extra time to good use, designing and sewing swimsuits to sell to walk-in customers who couldn't get appointments for custom-designed suits.

Her swimsuit designs catered to the "Missy" figure - women 25 and older. At trade shows, Tara noticed La Plage's sales differed from those of other designers. It sold more two-pieces to women older than 25. Tara attributes that to the design: higher at the waist, wider across the hips, with four layers of stomach-controlling fabric that give the body the support it needs to look good in a two-piece. "Everyone wants to wear a two- piece, but they don't feel like they can wear one. My suits cover the same flaws that one-pieces do."

Tara asks La Plage customers for critical reviews on her new designs, and their comments have helped her decide what to produce.

Tara Grinna Swimwear Corporation was born in 1993, after a successful promotion and sales tour by her husband Rune. La Plage, now a retail-only store, carries all Tara Grinna Swim-wear designs, as well as other popular brands. Tara has been careful to keep old favorites around for long-time customers.

With a gradual increase of seamstresses (now up to 15) and business tripling each year, the small custom shop has turned into a family business with a large retail store, a local plant for production and plans for a new retail store to open soon.

Tara designs the suits. Her mother Eleanor manages La Plage. Rune manages the plant. Their 5-year-old daughter Kirsti designed her own swimsuit line last spring.

Tara's suits are doubled-lined, making you look slimmer without feeling like a girdle. Tara smiles. "If I can get it on you, you'll buy it!"

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