Victims of ''depuración'' committees such as Argudín Noya often got additional scrutiny by colleagues and supervisers. Argudín Noya eventually quit and became an actress, left Cuba in 1967 and went to live in Atlanta, where her son had settled earlier in the 1960s.
French fashion designer Christian Dior sold creations at El Encanto, and famous Cubans stopped by to browse or shop, including Castro, who in his youth would read books in the periodicals department, without buying any, according to Miyares, who for years worked in men's clothing at the English Room.
''He was too cheap,'' said Miyares.
Other prominent clients included former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista's wives and one of his daughters, all of whom bought Manet designs.
No one probably embodies the carefree pre-Castro era at El Encanto than Manet, the fashion designer. Born Alberto Suárez, he came to be known simply as Manet after store executives chose that name for him as a marketing brand for his creations.
Suárez, 88, was hired in 1940 and initially worked under the supervision of Isabel Quiles, chief of the French Room, which offered the latest fashion designs for women. One of Manet's famous customers was Lana Turner, the actress.
Manet also hobnobbed with world-famous designers. He helped host Dior when the French designer visited El Encanto in 1956. Manet left Cuba in December 1959.
While many former employees became refugees in the United States, a few are now fleeing Venezuela where Hugo Chávez -- a Castro ally. Among former employees now arriving from Venezuela is Manuel Granda, who worked at the store from 1947 to 1961 when he fled to Caracas.
''I came here when it became clear that the situation in Venezuela was going the way of Cuba,'' said Granda, 78, who arrived in the United States in 2007. The majority of El Encanto ex-employees joined their former customers in Miami when hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled in the aftermath of Castro's takeover.
Ex-employees founded the Association of Former El Encanto Employees in 1980 and began holding annual reunions. The most recent took place Oct. 26.
Former employees are also trying to revive the store's annual Justo de Lara journalism prize, named after the pen name of the late Cuban writer and foreign correspondent José de Armas y Cárdenas.
Miyares is the group's executive director. But the association was established by Jacinto González, who remains president; Julio de la Campa, who headed the men's department and Luis Arrojas, who managed the Varadero store branch.
As of today, said Miyares, about 400 former employees are known to the association, with about 300 of them in the Miami area. At the time Castro took over, Miyares said, El Encanto had almost 3,000 employees at the main store, six branch stores, warehouses and 12 business franchises around the island.