This week I flew up to Boston to visit Sara Campbell, my friend and owner of Sara Campbell, LTD. I have been buying Sara’s line for as long as I have owned my store (18 years!). There were several seasons where I would fly up and help her pick out fabrics and design the line. It was always so much fun and so inspiring! Sara Campbell, LTD boasts of Made in the USA, which is a great selling point for me and my customers. In the past few years, Sara Campbell has opened boutiques all up and down the East Coast, and she is about to open her 25th store.
I arrived in Boston late Tuesday afternoon and dropped off my luggage at my hotel. I then went to the Lenox Hotel to meet Sara and her business partner, Peter Wheeler for dinner. We were huddled at a cozy table and couldn’t get a word in talking over one another, with lively conversations ranging from shop talk to politics. Sara and I are on opposite sides of the aisle, and we love to tease each other but in all seriousness, we both have a great amount of respect for each other and for our beliefs.
Sara took me back to my hotel, and picked me up early the next morning. I hopped in the car and she was on a call to one of her managers of her many stores. We arrived at her office and walked into her beautiful new office space with gorgeous old hardwood floors, and the hustle and bustle of her many staffers. Some were scurrying around with fabrics. She took me to each office and introduced me to everyone. I have known several of them for many years because they have worked for Sara as long as I have been in business.
After brief introductions, it was time for fittings for the new samples for the April delivery. Sara used to be the only fit model, but now she uses a beautiful young woman, Lauren to do the fittings and if necessary, Sara will try it on after her.
Maria Rosa, this amazing woman who has been with Sara since before I knew Sara, is the pattern maker and primary one in charge of how the end product turns out. She is standing there, with the measuring tape around her neck and her beautiful accent, asking Sara questions.
“Does it need to come up an inch, or should we taper these sleeves?” These are just a sampling of the questions she is asking. Meanwhile, two other staffers are there taking notes on fabrics, measurements and whatever else pertains to the particular garment. Every now and then Sara will say, “This needs a do-over,” toss out a sample and start all over. It was so fun to help with that process and give feedback for each sample.
Next Sara took me to see the next deliveries and get my opinion on the styles and fabrics. Some were still in the making and others were the finished design and product. I wrote down the style numbers that I liked for Ginger Howard Selections.
Then, it was time for lunch. Every Wednesday Sara treats all of her employees to a yummy lunch. I stopped counting how many employees she has in the home office. Everyone came and got their lunch and went back to their office to eat. Sara and I then met with a darling woman, Anne who works with Sara and brainstormed about business. Retail is constantly changing and now that Sara is out of the wholesale business, it is helpful for her to get feedback from other boutique owners as to what policies work best and how to handle employee relations, etc. We had a lively and productive discussion while we ate our lunch.
After lunch, Sara and I sat on the floor and looked at fabrics for the rest of the afternoon. It was so much fun! I helped pick out fabrics for holiday, resort and spring of 2020. You always have to be way out in front of the next year. We also chose styles for some of the fabrics and put them all together. By the time I had to go, we had a beautiful collection of fabrics and styles. I can’t wait to see them all made up!
Sara had to go to a meeting so she had Nick, who works in the warehouse, drive me to see her store on Beacon Hill and then off the airport. It was a very quick but successful trip. I always leave inspired by Sara and her team! Her clothes are the perfect lady-like styles that are timeless and classic. My favorite pieces are from her collection. I am grateful and thankful that at least for now, her beautiful line is still represented in my store!