A mother and daughter have partnered together to open a women's fashion store for a specialized market.
Shannon Smith, 38, and her mother Maxine Holden, 70, are the owners of Miss S Petites, located at 1345 Marine Dr. in West Vancouver. The store carries clothing for women five foot five and under in sizes two to 18.
"I opened this store because there was a void in the market," says Smith.
Originally the pair were looking to purchase another petites store in West Vancouver, but the owner decided to close it, as well as five of her other locations. Life then quickly took hold but five years later the idea came up again when Smith was visiting her mother.
"I worked in a law firm at the time and one day I was at her house for a glass of wine and she said 'so about that store, do you think we could do it on our own,' and I said 'yes why didn't I think of this sooner,'" she says.
The single mom of two set about researching her new venture in secrecy while she worked full time at the law firm, and Holden continued working through retirement for various boutiques in West Vancouver.
"I kept it a secret because I didn't want anyone to know until I actually was about to do it," says Smith. "I didn't tell even my closest friends. So it got a little stressful because there was no one to talk to about it except my mom."
She spent the past year and a half creating a business plan, doing webinars and "everything you have to do to open a store," and though she had some money saved, more was needed.
"I just took a risk and I started it anyways," says Smith. "I quit my job the end of June, and we opened Sept. 6."
Smith says the store opened by word of mouth, pulling in some of Holden's previous clientele.
"The feedback has been really great because we wanted to have a place where these women could find clothes that fit properly and my target market is about 45 to 90," she says. "Many of them tell me there's just no where for them, never mind them being petite but just being older, that there's nowhere that caters to their styles. And they still want to look good and they want to be unique but they have to have certain things in their clothing like higher rise pants and jeans, and more classic tailored looking jackets."
Smith says the store carries everything from jeans and dress pants, to jackets, shirts and sweaters.
"I like to have a few unique pieces because even though these ladies are older, they like to have print on their pants and they like to have velvet pants and a sparkly sweater for the holiday season," says Smith. "Just because they're older doesn't mean they don't feel young, they do and they want to express that."
The store also carries some accessories, including scarves, necklaces and bangles. Smith says her fall collection is still coming in and she plans on having a holiday collection as well. But adding the personal touch to every transaction is one of Smith's priorities.
"Another aspect that I want to offer is really, really personalized service.
I know their name, right away I have a book and I ask their size," says Smith. "Then I just put a little note about them so that when they come in I get to know them. My mom knows a lot of them because of her past being in West Van and we've lived here for a long time but it was important for me to get to know these customers."
Smith admits she has never worked in retail before and the process has been a learning curve.
"I've never done windows until now so I had a friend that helped me, and I've never had to buy clothes for a store," she says.
Holden has also played a pivotal role in getting the store up and running. Drawing from her previous experience in retail, Holden tracked down petites designers.
"She basically went on a goose hunt with names of designers," says Smith. "She went out and collected business cards for me and she had to make the connections because I was at work from 8:30 to 4:30. She set up the initial meetings and if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have known."
The petites store is located under Tasos restaurant where a fire broke out last fall, affecting some of the surrounding businesses. Smith says her storefront, along with a few others, has been completely renovated and businesses in the area have already been referring customers to her store.
"Being here on this block has been good; it's been a little bit challenging, though, because I'm the last store before the burnt stores," she says.
Though Smith says she still has some work to do, she's excited about her new business.
"I wanted to start an empire for my children too and I think it's great I get to work with my mom," says Smith. "I get to work in my community and I get to help women feel and look great in my community, so it's like a win-win."
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