50 years of joy are remembered at San Bruno shops anniversary

"That's the girl I'm going to marry," he told his friends.

Fifty years later many of the couple's friends claim to have played matchmaker. Both raised in San Francisco, Rosalie and Hal had many friends in common who might in fact have introduced them. But according to Rosalie, that's not the way it happened.

They met that day at Hoberg's, although Hal kept his matrimonial intentions secret until the following May when the pair became engaged. In June of 1947 they were married at Congregation Beth Israel in San Francisco.

Only a few months after their wedding, Hal and Rosalie were knee-deep in baby clothes. But we're not talking scandal here. The newlyweds bought Lullaby Lane, a baby store on San Mateo Avenue in San Bruno. Although they eventually had three children, Hal and Rosalie sometimes refer to Lullaby Lane as their fourth child.

Hal's cousin Norman Winkle, who owned a children's store on Taraval Avenue in San Francisco, had heard a store was for sale in San Bruno and suggested that Hal and Rosalie buy it. For the next several years, Winkle was the couple's mentor.

"He bought me a `Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book' to read up on what babies needed," said Rosalie.

San Bruno was a sleepy little town where women strolled during the day with their babies. Lullaby Lane was a small shop with one employee. When Hal and Rosalie took it over, they had to let the one employee go because they couldn't afford her.

"We opened right after World War II and manufacturers were just starting back after making war goods," said Rosalie. "It was hard to get merchandise like diapers."

Later, when business started to grow, they hired the employee back.

Times have changed in San Bruno — and at Lullaby Lane.

Today new parents can chose from a selection of 75 to 100 cribs, 35 car seats and 50 strollers. Monthly classes at the shop teach new or expectant parents everything they need to know about baby equipment.

Twenty years ago the shop moved into a larger space a block from its original location. Now it occupies three sites on that block: the main store, a children's furniture store and the clearance center where floor models, close-outs and other sale items are sold.

The store also rents equipment for the visiting baby and takes trade-ins on cribs.

The year 1997 was loaded with golden anniversaries for the Gevertz family, who have been longtime members of San Francisco's Congregation Ner Tamid as well as B'nai B'rith and Hadassah. The year marked 50 years of marriage and 50 years of being in the baby business.

The family celebrated at the store with monthly drawings. Winners got to buy baby equipment at bargain 1947 prices. Consider $15.98 for a high chair or $50 for a crib or $3.98 for a car seat.

Then there were the parties. A parking-lot party featured balloons, games, entertainment, food and a drawing for $5,000 in gift certificates. San Bruno Mayor Ed Simon and state Senate candidate Jackie Speier were there, and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) issued a proclamation. Another party honored all present and former employees of the store as well as sales reps.

Over the years, Lullaby Lane also sponsored children's fashion shows to raise funds for such groups as B'nai B'rith, San Francisco Congregation Sherith Israel and Ner Tamid.

Then, of course, there was a party for Hal and Rosalie's wedding anniversary.

"It was wonderful," said Rosalie of the parking-lot party. "It was proclaimed Lullaby Lane Day in San Bruno."

After 50 years, Hal and Rosalie still work at Lullaby Lane although most of the operation is in the hands of their children: son Barry and wife Dolores, and daughter Debbie Gevertz-Licolli. The Gevertzes also have another son, Michael. The next generation is already in training. Grandchildren Erin, 17, and Bryant, 14, sometimes work in the store.

According to Rosalie, life at Lullaby Lane is better now than ever before.

"We enjoy working there because we don't have real responsibilities," said Rosalie, who appreciates the added bonus of being able to see her children and grandchildren on a regular basis. "We like being there because people are happy. It's a joyous time."

Although working closely with so many relatives could be disastrous, it has never been a problem for the Gevertz family.

"We got along very well because we each did our own thing," said Rosalie of working with her husband. "He did furniture and bookkeeping and I did the clothing. Each one was respectful of the other."

That model carried over to their children, who not only get along well with their parents, but also with each other.

"I'm really proud of them and what they're doing because they're also very innovative," said Rosalie. "They brought the store up in the `90s."

That transition includes computerizing the store and establishing a Web site at www.lullabylane.com

Now that he has more time to travel and play golf, Hal can reflect on his 50 years in business and the reasons for his success.

"In order to be successful, you have to be big," he said. "You have to have inventory. You have to have real good quality. You have to have really good service. We have very knowledgeable help."