We talked to: Ooh La La
Could you tell us a bit about your business, and what made you choose Northampton as the location for your shop?
I actually worked at Paul & Elizabeth’s for nearly a decade, both while I was in college and afterward. Having been in Thornes for so many years and coming to understand the flow and structure of the building, I just felt it was the right place at the right time when this space became available. The intimacy and welcoming atmosphere spoke to me, and the configuration lends itself perfectly to my clothing and services.
When I was just starting to design and approach opening a business seriously, I wrote up a plan using Thornes as one of my models and customers profiles. Because I knew the demographic so well, I used that as research and took it from there. I had actually considered opening up a shop on Martha's Vineyard, which is where I’m from. But when the pandemic hit, it gave me some time to take a pause and regroup. So when I saw the Thornes space open up, it made perfect sense and I felt I had to jump at the opportunity. And ultimately, it turned out to be the exact right “fit” for me all along!
My husband was actually opening a car repair business at the same time, so we have had a lot of things to juggle and figure out. It’s a chaotic yet exciting experience, and I am just relieved to be all set up and open to the public at last. I am also thrilled to be able to offer customers a personal touch and make them feel cared for and heard. I feel like it’s a dream being here, and that I am essentially getting to play “dress-up” in my walk-in closet on a daily basis. I love making people feel welcome, and offering tea or a little champagne every now and then. It’s that singular, one-on-one connection that people won’t get when they shop online.
How are things going so far, now that you are fully moved into your new space on the first floor of Thornes?
Things are going really well so far! I am definitely getting more shoppers, from foot traffic, folks from out of town, and people who have been looking forward to us opening. It’s great to have that variety, and I’m eager to help more customers find lovely and unique pieces that make them feel special.
What are some challenges you endured, and what are some positive things that you’ve learned/that have come out of the past two years?
Out of various challenges have come some unexpected positives. Pre-pandemic, I had been moving forward, designing and developing my lingerie and loungewear for several years. When things shut down, it threw a massive hurdle at me. As a really small brand, I found myself trying to compete with well-known big box stores for factory time. This was nearly impossible, even with good connections, and things got delayed for over a year. I had to down-size my silk/satin line because even when the factory reopened, they could not take on my work due to being down to only one person who could handle such an intricate design.
Though I had to scale back further at that point, I was ultimately able to work with a factory in New York that I’d been interested in, as they had availability once things started to reopen. The bottom line is that it’s about learning to have faith in the process and knowing that when one door closes, another door is likely to open down the line. The manufacturing process is definitely not for the faint of heart, and I had to learn to stand my ground and ensure that my products were up to my standards and the highest quality possible. It was a lot to learn in a short span of time, but now that I’m open and people are giving me feedback, I feel so validated. I truly believe that if you have a dream, you will get there eventually.
As a business owner, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
I recently visited the Newport Mansions in Rhode Island, which was so enjoyable and rejuvenating. As a family, we love to escape to the beach for the weekend every now and then. During the week, even when we’re all busy, I make sure to take some time to fully disconnect and really focus on spending time with my husband and 8-year-old son. I try to pay attention to my reserves and replenish my brain space for creativity. My son and I love to play a farm game on a model table—we’ll sit down for an hour or so and just focus on playing with his trucks. Having fun and connecting in that way is so important for us both, and making it a daily priority is essential to me. You have to allow yourself that time to let go and be in the moment with your family and friends.
Is there anything you’re excited about regarding the business in upcoming months, from events to new items?
Yes! I am very excited about putting the final touches on some new pieces for the fall. I made the samples a long time ago, and they are finally moving forward. These will include new loungewear items and a lounge dress I’m very eager to share with people. I’m also just looking forward to growing and having more people come in and learn about us and what we have to offer.