Bonnie Wolf closed Bonnie’s Happy Look after 37 years. Photo by Marshall Smith
Bonnie Wolf closed Bonnie’s Happy Look after 37 years.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Self-described flower child Bonnie Wolf, gentle, soft-spoken and wide-eyed, said it was time to retire. “There were a lot of good memories and a lot of challenges,” said Wolf of her long history on North Circle Drive. “But now I want to simplify, slow down and enjoy.”

Wolf spoke glowingly of her customers and the quality of merchandise and good feelings she created in her store. “There was so much me in the store,” she said. “Today it’s a new world of technology, everyone with their devices.” She noted that customers coming in now didn’t want as much as what had been a mainstay of her retail plan — things what were “soft, sweet and cute.”

Wolf spoke of when she first came to Idyllwild in 1977. “I remember it seemed to me that we were all more ‘artsy’ then,” noting that she came from the hippie generation — optimistic, gentle and caring. She had come here to help her parents, Morrie and Sara Bronson, operate the movie theater, but quickly, with her mother as business partner, she opened the first Bonnie’s Happy Look April 1, 1978, across the street from the movie theater in what is now Idyllwild Realty.

“But mother was so smart about business,” said Wolf. “She said I should not be at the mercy of landlords so we bought the small building where the present store is located nine-and-a-half years later.” Wolf said the original building was too small, so it was torn down and the present structure built-to-order as a retail establishment.

“I started strictly with women’s clothing,” she said. “But with the additional space, I added men’s clothing.” Then with an economic downturn in the 1990s, Wolf added Beanie babies. “It became a phenomenon,” she remembered. “It saved the store.”

Wolf said the difficulties of retail were complicated by regular trips to Malibu to care for her parents. With her mother’s passing 10 months ago, Wolf said it just seemed the right time to retire. “I was mentally and physically exhausted.’

She said she has no plans to do anything other than relax for the immediate future. She will keep her home here and split time between here and Malibu. Asked about highlights of her long career on North Circle, Wolf said it was always the people. “Even now there are people coming in to say goodbye and tell me how much they enjoyed the store,” she said.

Sunday was her final day of business. Monday, the last things in the store were being packed away. Wolf said the property is already sold to a new owner.

Wolf, who has a degree in fine art, said she never pursued a career as an artist. “The art came through my business,” she said, with a wistful look around the nearly empty store.