A man who had Hollywood in the palm of his hand, who took big chances in fashion and always succeeded, who became world famous in his industry now calls East Tennessee home and is taking on a new venture that really resonates with the East Tennessee way of life.
Baseball, cool cars, celebrities, athletes, fashion. The life of Glenn Laiken is pretty remarkable and it started at a young age in Los Angeles.
"That craziness really became an energy and a passion that kind of became part of my psyche," says Laiken.
Glenn was focused on baseball during school, but an injury took him out of the game even though he was recruited by Arizona State and drafted by the Chicago White Sox. Luckily, he had a backup plan.
"I was one of those kids who always pressed my own shirts before I went to school in the morning," says Laiken. He always loved fashion and was inspired after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times. The article said for the first time women would be allowed to wear pants to school. He soon realized those pants would likely be denim and he opened his first jeans store at age 21.
"I coined a phrase that later became common within the industry because I was really one of the first jean stores, true jean stores in the country and I coined the phrase unisex," says Laiken.
He found big success and then sold the chain and went in search of his next venture. He ended up in Europe at the home of Pierre Cardin who was previewing his line of men's designer suits.
"This is the first time I saw true clothing, suits, sport coats, two piece suits, three piece suits, slacks, blazers," says Laiken.
He was in! And that is when he opened a men's specialty store, Glenn Laiken's Alandales in Los Angeles.
"Alandales really became a pioneer in designer clothing," says Laiken.
It was about more than men's suits, it was about a man's image.
"The guys and the people who were the next generation to make everything happen especially in the entertainment industry. That was the client who was coming to my store," says Laiken.
He dressed athletes, celebrities, executives, powerful people. He had made it and that was made even more apparent when his store became a centerpiece in the movie American Gigolo with no-names Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton.
"There Richard Gere is standing up against my store right behind him is the name Glenn Laiken Alandales," says Laiken.
Glenn worked on that movie side by side with unknown designer Giorgio Armani. Another defining moment involved a big personality.
"It came to the time when Oprah Winfrey had discovered a gentleman named Phillip McGraw who became known as Dr. Phil. She had a team of people and she says, 'We need to find somebody to create an image for him'."
He soon became Dr. Phil's personal designer.
"We had a wonderful nine years together," says Laiken.
Things were going so well, but it was time for a change and this time a move. Glenn sold Alandale's and started googling. "We put six points in our search for where we might want to live," says Laiken. "Quality of life relative to cost of living, four seasons with mild summers and winters, excellent medical available, low crime, proximity to an airport, and no natural disasters."
Knoxville was one of the cities in the Southeast that came up and they visited. "The first thing we noticed was how friendly everyone was," says Laiken. He and his wife, Sheila, decided Knoxville would be home.
They knew they made the right choice when a neighbor and now close friend invited them over for a home cooked meal the day they moved into their home.
"I get choked up because that was the big difference between living in LA and coming here," says Laiken.
Knoxville would be where they would retire, but not for long. Glenn and Sheila noticed how religion and church were a way of life in East Tennessee and it fit right in with their own values.
"After maybe the 60th or 70th time that somebody said, 'Why did you move from LA to the Bible Belt?' Sheila looks at me and says, "Glenn, we need to make a real Bible Belt'," says Laiken.
It was at that moment Bible Blessings was born.
"Our dream and our passion is to create an entire collection of lifestyle products, women's purses and bags and baby's wraps and comforters, blankets that say wrap yourself in Jesus," says Laiken.
His wife designed the logo that seemed to be a sign from God.
"So our logo is two B's back to back and as she was designing these two B's back to back for Bible Belt, she saw a cross in the middle. It was like it just appeared," says Laiken.
Glenn Laiken, a man well-suited for the fashion industry and now perfectly tailored for East Tennessee.
One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.
10-percent of all sales at Bible Blessings will go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.