Ask the Locals: Rhonda Shear, lingerie mogul

click to enlarge Ask the Locals: Rhonda Shear, lingerie mogul - Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Ask the Locals: Rhonda Shear, lingerie mogul

Rhonda Shear is the CEO of Shear Enterprises, a multi-million-dollar lingerie company that gave rise to underwire’s worst enemy: the Ahh Bra.

Shear, a comedian, actress and former Miss Louisiana, hatched the business 11 years ago out of her Los Angeles apartment with her high school sweetheart Van Fagan, whom she later married. It began as a pet project for Shear, whose curvy frame and full bust made bra-buying a nightmare. In 2006, she relocated the business and her home to St. Petersburg so she could be closer to HSN.

In 2011, Shear Enterprises raked in a whopping $72 million in revenue. In 2012, Shear was nominated for The American Business Awards’ prestigious Stevie Award for Most Innovative Company of the Year, followed by the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Retail and Consumer Products.

Up until her “Ahh-ha” moment, the 59-year-old New Orleans native was best known as the host of Up All Night, a campy late-night movie marathon that aired from 1989 to 1998 on the USA Network. The program, which featured a scantily clad Shear introducing seedy low-budget flicks, landed the star in two Playboy pictorials.

A Snell Isle resident, Shear is currently helping launch two new lines of loungewear with aspiring celeb-preneurs Kato Kaelin and Crystal Hefner (Hugh’s wife). In April she revived Up All Night for local audiences on WTTA Ch. 38.

Where she goes for comfort food: Skyway Café. “It’s good old-fashioned homemade food. It’s family-owned and everything except the French fries is made from scratch. If you don’t feel well, you must get the hobo soup.”

Where she does a drive-thru: PDQ. “When I’m doing a salad on the run it’s my guilty pleasure. It doesn’t taste as manufactured as McDonald’s. It tastes like real food to me.”

Where she gets her deli fix: Lonni’s Sandwiches. “Their tuna and chicken salad is off the charts. I get a double scoop.”

Where she goes for Cajun cuisine: Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro and Po Boy Shop. “[Owner] Ricky Parsons has catered a lot of events at my house. Being from New Orleans, I can assure you they’re the best we have in that genre of food. Their gumbo and shrimp étouffée is really yummy.”

Where she goes for sangria: Red Mesa on 4th Street. “It’s really fruity and fresh. There are certain things you have to order at certain restaurants and the sangria at Red Mesa is one of them.”

Where she goes for the best service: The Capital Grille. “They recognize you and take care of you. If you go, ask for Chris. He’s exceptional. I’ll ask for something specially done and they’ll make it for me and they’d do it for anybody else too.”

Where she eats healthy: Ciccio Cali, St. Pete. “The bowls are fun and they fill you up. If I don’t want to do the rice on the bottom because I’m avoiding carbs, I’ll get spaghetti squash or extra cucumbers.”

Where she goes for a steamy night out: Rococo Steak. “We desperately needed a steak house in downtown St. Pete. If I want to be a little more dressed up than sweatpants, I go to Rococo. It’s a sexy place. Their kale chips and seafood platter-for-two is amazing.”

Where she goes for exotic sushi: Kaiko Sushi Bar & Japanese Restaurant. “People call the place Charlie’s because really it’s all about Charlie, the sushi chef. He’s the real deal. He cuts the sushi beautifully and they always have uni [sea urchin roe], which nobody gets around here. My husband and I will buy a box of uni for $75.”

Where she goes to be surprised: edison: food + drink lab. “Every time we go the menu has something different.”

Where she eats like a lady: Donatello Italian Restaurant. “You feel like you’re going to see Frank Sinatra coming out of the back. The owner hands you a rose and kisses you as you leave. I had never seen that before.”

Where she shops for cocktail dresses: Apropos in Tampa. “It’s hard to find cocktail dresses when you’re a fuller-busted woman. They’ve got a great selection and they’re always helpful without being too pushy.”

Where she shops for evening gowns: Ambria’s Gallery of Wearable Art. “The owner once poured me into a dress and I was like, ‘I’m never getting into this!’ And I did.”

Where she last let her hair down: Fort Knox Bar & Grill on St. Pete Beach. “It was a blast: four couples smoking cigars getting loud and rowdy. I’m usually a piano bar kind of girl, so this was different. We played pool all night.”

Who she hires to cater parties: Olympia Catering & Events.
“Everything they do is fabulous. It’s like eating at a fine restaurant. I ate one of their salads at an event at the Mahaffey Theater and I just had to get my hands on them. Now I get them to do all my parties and my neighbor’s parties.”

Who maintains her mane: LaPosh in Clearwater. “They do all the celebrities at HSN. Their coloring and styling are amazing. They’re definitely New York and L.A.-caliber without the attitude.”

Who erases her wrinkles: Dr. Douglas Klotch. “He’s my ear/nose/throat specialist and one of the best Botox docs I have ever used. I’m blown away by his artistry. It was instant gratification.”

Where she goes to de-stress: Spa Jardin in Tampa. “I lived in L.A. for 26 years and no one can touch their facials. It’s such a quaint, pretty place. You walk in there and get into a Zen mode.”

Where she does a late-night grub run: Hiro’s Tokyo Steakhouse & Sushi Bar. “Hiro’s becomes a disco in the wee hours of the morning. We’ve done the late-night karaoke thing there. We work crazy hours at HSN, so we’re always scouting for places that stay open late.”