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Irene Saloum Ellicott ’48

September 12, 2019, in Portland.

Born into a Portland retailing family, Irene worked after school at H. Saloum, her father’s dry-goods store. She both loved and hated working in retail.

“I made up my mind at that time never to be in merchandising,” she said, and began taking premed courses at Reed. But she left college to marry a man in merchandising and began raising a family. Eventually she and her husband opened Casual Village, a store in Lloyd Center, and over the years, four more shops were added.

When her eldest son joined the army and was deployed to Vietnam, Irene was devastated. “I had a choice of becoming a nervous wreck over the whole thing or doing something positive,” she said. Their stores weren’t occupying enough of her mental energies, so she began taking college courses. After auditing a French class at Reed, she moved on to Mt. Hood Community College for French and psychology and then transferred to Marylhurst College, where she acquired a bachelor’s degree in psychology—all while working full time in the family stores.

“Although I received my undergraduate degree from Marylhurst,” Irene said, “I considered Reed my college. Reed gave me confidence in my intellectual ability to excel at anything I set my mind to.”

After getting her bachelor’s degree, Irene realized that a part of her life had never been finished. “I still had the intellect, and a whole new world opened up for me,” she said. She went on to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Portland State University and did postgraduate work with Masters and Johnson.

“Those years I spent going back to school and getting my degrees were the most exciting in my life,” she said. “I developed new self-confidence and discovered I really did have the ability to learn, to get good grades, and to discipline myself.” Her thesis explored the impact of mastectomy on sexual function, the first scholarly exploration of that area.

“It was then that I became aware of human sexuality as an interesting subject of study,” she said. By this time, she had been divorced and remarried. Her second husband, Harold “Chris” Ellicott, was an executive at Georgia-Pacific with extensive experience in marketing and public relations.

At the point of being finished with merchandising and devoting her life to psychology, Irene was hit with the realization that if she made this choice she’d never again go to market. She realized that she really liked merchandising and had an idea for a different kind of women’s clothing store.

“No one had really done a store for contemporary women,” she said, “one that would offer clothes in medium to higher prices for the woman with a high taste level who couldn’t afford what her taste would like to have.”

With Chris, Irene opened East Street, a women’s clothing store in Lake Oswego. The two made a great team, attending markets around the world to buy for the store that became known for its selection of dresses and sportswear. In three years, the business expanded from 1,500 to 3,500 square feet. In 1987, they opened H.C. Ellicott, a women’s clothing store in Washington Square, which they operated for 18 years. One of their successful advertising campaigns, called “She’s a Winner,” used successful women who were customers as models.

Throughout her merchandising career, Irene also did marital and sexual dysfunction counseling. She had a passion for skiing, boating, tennis, and golf. Harold died in 2016. Irene is survived by her son, Nicholas Tecay.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2020

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