Nat Giuliani and Auburn: a right fit

Community Portrait
By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
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Auburn’s Nat Giuliani was born at home in San Francisco’s North Beach community in 1922 in the heart of the Bay Area’s Italian neighborhood. Giuliani comes from a long line of merchants. “My father’s family and all of my mother’s family in Italy were all merchants,” he said. At 88 years of age, Giuliani has an easy manner, a full head of wavy white hair, clear blue eyes and a sharp mind able to remember details of his long career in Auburn. Giuliani was born during Prohibition and was 8 years old when the Great Depression began. No doubt these events had an influence on Giuliani as his parents struggled to make ends meet. His parents moved the family out of the city in 1934 when Giuliani was 12, settling in Roseville on 160 acres on what is now the corner of Sunrise Avenue and Douglas Boulevard and went into farming. “Eighty acres was vineyard and 80 acres was wheat land,” Giuliani said. “Unfortunately my parents lost the farm to the Depression, and we moved into downtown Roseville,” he recalled. Giuliani graduated from Roseville High School in 1941. He attended Placer Junior College, which at the time shared a campus with Placer High School in Auburn and played football for legendary coach Howard Woodside. Placer Junior College later became Sierra College and relocated to Rocklin. Giuliani went into the service in 1943 and served in World War II in Italy, Scotland and England in the Army/Air Force as a radio gunner in communications and flew transport missions. After the war, Giuliani came back to the Auburn area and went into his first business venture in 1947, renting the building where Café Delicias now sits in Old Town. Sometimes in old photos of Auburn you can come across photos of Giuliani’s business, Nat’s Commodities, where he sold Army/Navy surplus goods. “The war was over and the government was getting rid of everything, and cheap. I bought everything I could, but I didn’t deal with guns or munitions,” Giuliani said. “Mostly clothing and supplies — funny, I still have some leftover surplus in my basement,” he said. “One time I bought a half train car of surplus military blankets,” he said. When the war surplus started to run out, Giuliani started in the menswear business and moved uptown to a location in the Old Opera House in Central Square, opening Nat’s Men’s Wear. After the Opera House burned down around 1958, Giuliani moved across the street and continued to serve the clothing needs of Auburn’s men until he retired in 2000. Nat’s Men’s Wear catered to area men in a way not known to stores today. And if you bought a pair of Levi brand jeans in Auburn, most likely you bought them from Nat’s, who had the Levi exclusive for the area. Most longtime residents probably remember the personal attention Giuliani and his staff gave their customers. “In those days it was a highly specialized business. When a guy came I just about knew his size by eyeballing him, then I would put the tape to him and really put the measurements on him. We really knew our customers and we fitted them right,” Giuliani said. “I think men dressed a little more formal back then, sport coats and ties. It’s a little more casual today,” he noted. Giuliani spent over 50 years doing business in Auburn and really enjoyed working with people. He served on the planning commission for a time and is a member of local service organizations. “I really had a tough time retiring,” he said. “For me it was an enjoyment, working for yourself is an enjoyment.”