Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stylemaker Q/A: Matt Jelinek

Frustrated about the lack of swimwear options in Madison? Matt Jelinek, swimwear manager at Middleton Sports & Fitness, is trying to change that. Starting this month he’s revamping the store’s swimwear department to not only carry popular swim brands Speedo and TYR, but more fashion forward looks from Gottex, Jantzen—even Dolce & Gabbana. Since they’re known for carrying “sportier” swimsuits, I asked Jelinek about the planned changes, and how they’ll market their “new” segment of fashion swimwear.

Q: When did you join Middleton Sports & Fitness? What had you been doing before and what attracted you to this job?
A: Prior to joining Middleton Sports in April of 2008 I was running my own company, which is a very part-time job that I continue to do. I also consult for a local publishing company as well as [work for] a property management company.
The opportunity was offered to me and the prospect of providing exceptional customer service and purchasing in the swim department while also facilitating new marketing and merchandising efforts with this locally owned company was very appealing. I’ve always been an advocate for small business and this was another way for me to become more involved with other local businesses.

Q: What do you do on a day-to-day basis? What are the responsibilities of your job?
A: Our customers come first—from our young customers who are on a swim team for the first time, to our in-store customers, to our customers from middletonfitness.com. Daily purchasing is also important to ensure that we have our most popular items and styles in stock and available, which includes special orders for customers. Oftentimes I travel to meet with our teams and large customers. Middleton Sports also has two traveling stores for our teams and customers as far away as Reedsburg, Milton, Johnson Creek and Iowa.

Q: You are introducing a new swimwear/cruisewear component to the swim department. Why did you decide to do this and what physical changes are you making to the store?
A: Middleton Sports has always been a leader in offering the widest variety of swimwear. With annual inventories of more than $250,000 in the springtime, we want to continue this tradition by offering an entirely new lifestyle feel to our customers. We will be changing the look in one section of our swim department to include different lighting and a more intimate feel to the store, which will include specialized training for our employees to ensure the best look and feel for customers.
The new component brings with it a potential to reach out to new customers while also providing customers with items that they would otherwise only be able to order online.

Q: What are you looking for in what you’ll carry in this new section? What brands will you carry?
A: We’re already working with some of the largest names in fashion swimwear including Gottex for women and Andrew Christian for men. We’re still working on negotiating a purchasing agreement with Dolce & Gabbana and hope to be offering their 2009 line by early spring for both men and women.

Q: What do you think the Midwestern shopper is looking for in swimwear that’s different from other parts of the country, and how is the store catering to that?
A: It’s been my experience that Midwesterners are looking for something that is stylish, but more importantly, fits their personality and something in which they will feel comfortable in any setting. Anticipation of these needs is driving us to purchase suits in all sizes for all shapes. Whether our customers are looking to accentuate a certain aspect of their figure or to draw attention away from other areas (as one of my good friends says, “If you can’t hide it, decorate it!”), we’ll offer something for everyone heading either out of town or to our local beaches and pools—including kids. In other parts of the country these suits or replicas of them are easily found and sometimes sizes are available; sometimes they’re not. But [these brands] are much easier to find. We intend to ensure the highest quality of swimwear to fit any individual’s style and comfort while making sure we have their size available. Special orders cost nothing extra to our customers unless there’s a rush. And if the suit doesn’t fit, the customer doesn’t pay.

Q: You also emphasized carrying suits that would appeal to the gay male. What are they looking for as swimwear consumers, and what brands will you carry?
A: Gay men are very particular about what they wear. They want to be fashionable trendsetters and are often early adopters to new styles in fashion. To this end, having the latest and greatest in what is being introduced to the market on the coasts and overseas is essential. We’ll offer Andrew Christian, Jocko and Dolce & Gabbana.

Q: What pieces are you most excited about carrying?
A: Gottex has a phenomenal line of swimwear for 2009 that will be very appealing to a large portion of our current customer base as well as college students. I think that this line will bring about a change in how women feel about their bodies. Particularly because this trend-setting company offers larger sizes that are extremely fashionable and accentuate the most appealing shapes in all sizes of the female form.
For men, I’m really excited about the Andrew Christian and Jocko lines. Nike is offering some new sporty looks that are sure to please our more mature client base as well. And when we get Dolce & Gabbana in, I’m sure we’re going to be quite busy.

Q: Any services or special offers you’ll be offering to the swimwear customers?
A: We’re going to start a mailing list for customers to receive coupons through email. Additionally, with the new lines, [we] will help customers get fitted properly and ensure that specific items are available to them when they are needed.
We plan to provide every customer with a very relaxed, comfortable shopping experience and are committed to helping customers to find something that they’re proud to put on their bodies—something that makes them feel proud of their body, no matter their size or shape. Vacation is about being comfortable and that’s what we aim to facilitate with what our customers wear.

Q: What is the price range of suits you’ll have?
A: For women, we’ll have separates and two-pieces starting from $39.95 up to more than $260 for separates and single-piece suits from Gottex.
For men, we’ll have suits starting at $39.95 for Nike, Speedo and Andrew Christian up to $180 for Dolce & Gabbana, when that line comes in.

Q: When will you have everything in?
A: The changes to the swim department will occur throughout the month of November. We’ve already started receiving Nike, Speedo and TYR cruise/beach lines. Andrew Christian, Jocko, Gottex, Perry Ellis, Jag, Jantzen and the others should start arriving in the first few weeks of November. Dolce & Gabbana will be arriving around February. New arrivals for all of these manufacturers will come in during October and February annually after our launch in early December 2008.

Middleton Sports & Fitness, 6649 University Ave. 836-3931. middletonfitness.com


3rd Annual Atwood-Winnebago Winter Festival
When: December 5, 5–9 p.m.
Where: Particpating Atwood-area businesses like Absolutely Art, bad dog frida, Bunky’s Café, Café Zoma, Milio’s, Sugar Shack Records, Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace and more.
Details: Explore over twenty businesses in the Winnebago-Atwood neighborhood. Live music, free samples and door prize drawings will also be available!
More information: winnatwood.org

Holiday Jewelry Preview–Recession Beater Prices
When: November 15–26
Where: Fanny Garver Gallery, 230 State St.
Details: Handmade gold and silver jewelry, freshwater pearls and more will be in-store. With prices between $25–$250, prices are just right.
More information: 256-6755. fannygarvergallery.com

Indocara 3rd Anniversary Party
When: November 20–23
Where: Indocara, 540 W. Washington Ave.
Details: Have you been to Indocara? If you still haven’t gone, here’s your chance to check out this modern global furnishings wonderland. New items have just arrived! Celebration events throughout the day on November 20 include Cha Cha tea and cookies from 2–4 p.m., and a cheese and wine reception from 4–8 p.m.
More information: 251-7711. indocara.com

Premiere Couture Prom Sneak Peek Party
When: November 23
Where: Premiere Couture, 1921 Monroe St.
Details: For those attending Prom here’s a chance to check out the hot styles for 2009. Rate each design as “hot” or “not.” Snacks and prizes will be there, and one lucky girl will win a free prom dress. If Mom attends, she’ll receive a free gift, too. Pre-register for the 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. time slot.
More information: email info@premierecouture.com to pre-register. 255-1921. href="http://www.Premierecouture.blogspot.com" target="new">premierecouture.blogspot.com

Ebony Fashion Fair
When: December 7, 8–10:30 p.m.
Where: Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Dr.
Details: A fashion show you don’t want to miss: I attended last year and was totally wowed. This New York-style fashion show showcases the hottest designers in fashion today, like Roberto Cavalli, Anna Sui, Missoni, Vivienne Westwood and more. Proceeds from the event benefit The Madison Links Annual Student Recognition and Scholarship Program.
More information: Madison Links: 277-8548. ebonyfashionfair.com

Friday, November 14, 2008

What I Look for in Great Stores

Recently one of my friends asked me: “What do you do if you don’t like a store? Do you write a bad review?”

My answer to that: No
, I don’t write a bad review (technically, I don’t do “reviews” at all…rather, columns, but that’s beside the point). Madison is a small city, and I’m not interested in putting down any stores that aren’t, well, top-notch. If anything, these stores just need some prodding in the right direction. Or, if they’re really terrible, customers won’t want to go in for some reason or another and the storeowner will eventually “get it.” What I won’t do: endorse a store that I’m not fully OK with sending magazine and blog readers to. If I strongly dislike a store or feel that their customer service isn’t excellent, I won’t write about it.

The good news: I’ve rarely encountered any stores and storeowners that I haven’t liked and that I haven’t felt were worth writing about. Although some people might lament that Madison is small, there are upsides to being small: forging a personal connection with your favorite storeowner and getting first pick on cool items are two shopping advantages. I once had a storeowner tell me that the reason their online store did so well was because online customers from the coasts discovered that the Midwestern stores were the ones to hit up because all of the really popular stores in the big cities sold out the popular denim brands so quickly—whereas stores like Detour in Milwaukee and Context in Madison, for example, had A.P.C. or Nudie Jeans in stock.
On to the topic at hand: stores I love. (Disclaimer: this list is not all-inclusive.)

Monroe Street Shoe Repair and Cecil’s Shoe Repair
As every fashionista knows, your favorite shoes and handbags don’t last forever. At least they won’t without a little—sprucing up—yes? That’s where these folks come in. I have frequented both of these places and they’ve always done a top-notch job. Handbag strap need to be reattached? Stiletto heel tip need to be replaced? These places deliver with fast, inexpensive results. Recently I bought an adorable pair of shoes but a snap on the strap was missing. Enter Cecil’s. I bought the tiny snap from next-door Jo-Ann Fabrics and brought it over to Cecil’s. He squinted at my shoe, scurried away and came back five minutes later with a fresh snap in place, my shoe ready to wear. When I offered to pay him, he waved his hand and said, “Just come back in another time. Don’t worry about it.”
Old-school customer service? You can’t go wrong with that!
Monroe Street Shoe Repair, 2612 Monroe St. 238-3171.
Cecil's, 6717 Odana Rd. 833-5010.

Fair Indigo
Fair Indigo’s execs founded the company with the belief that fair trade clothing can be made affordably and the people that make it can be paid a living wage. In other words, no sweatshops allowed. Although the company started out as a mail-order catalog, their only storefront is here in Madison—cool. If you’ve ever bought something from the store, not only is the staff in-store friendly, but the company follows up with you via email by asking how your store experience was. Plus you can look up in-store or on the website stories about the people who made each item—like their cashmere sweaters or a silver bracelet. It personalizes the shopping experience even more.
Products range from baby clothing and toys to clothing for mom and dad—plus accessories and bath and body items. Many are organic. All are fair trade.
Fair Indigo, 570 N. Midvale Blvd., 661-7662. fairindigo.com

Movin’ Shoes
I am not a triathlete. I do, however, fancy myself as somewhat of a runner—you know, the kind of runner that dabbles in a few miles per week, but nothing major. Nothing Ironman-worthy, certainly. The employees at Movin’ Shoes don’t care about that. They care about getting you fitted for the right shoe. I went there on a warm August day seeking new kicks. You see, my first shoe-buying experience there a few years ago was positive, so I went there once again.
Instantly, a friendly employee approached me and asked what I was looking for. She asked me to walk without shoes on to figure out if I walk inward or outward. Then she brought out quite a few pairs of shoes for me to try on that worked for my walking style. Our search yielded the perfect shoe and I purchased them. I even had a coupon for the place—and the employee (and the owner)—gave it back to me after applying the discount, saying I should come in again. And I was welcome to use the coupon again, too. I sure will!
Movin' Shoes, 528 S. Park St. 251-0125.

Patricia Shoppe
It’s obvious that Patricia Shoppe carries cute things. Their retro-chic décor and overall polished, classy pieces emanate good taste (at good prices!). What I like most, though, about owner Jessica Meyer is that she’s not just a savvy storeowner but a nice person. When I needed to borrow a steamer for a photo shoot, she lent it to me, no questions asked. We needed somewhere to shoot our November Style Sheet page and I thought of her store. Of course we could stage the shoot there, she said. When I needed to borrow some items (mannequins, among them) for a TV segment a few weeks later, Meyer dropped them off here at our building for our use.
Patricia Shoppe, 137 W. Johnson St. 256-1111. patriciashoppe.com

I probably have a nice story or anecdote to share about each interview I’ve had with local storeowners; far too many to share here!
If you’ve noticed a common theme amongst these stores, it’s that they all offer quality goods—with that crucial puzzle piece, friendly and knowledegable customer service. Many of them go above and beyond the call of duty to help their customers find exactly what they’re looking for—whether it’s running shoes, a recycled fleece coat or repairing a zipper.


Have you heard of Oompa? If you haven’t—you will soon. The child-friendly store opened in Middleton November 1, and it is, simply put, awesome.
Owner Milanie Cleere’s motto: “No batteries. No blinking lights. No cartoon-themed toys. Period.”
The store specializes in European children’s toys and room decor. Check out adorable all-natural wool stuffed animals, beautiful artwork, wooden toys and room décor, all for an uber-fashionable Junior. Heck, I don’t even have a child and I coveted many of the items because they were so beautiful.
Cleere founded Oompa.com in 2004 and she’d been running the business in L.A. After visiting a vendor in the Madison area a few years ago, Cleere and her husband fell in love with the area and moved here a year ago to open Oompa’s first storefront.
More on Oompa soon…
Oompa, 1970 Cayuga St., Middleton. oompa.com


Dane Buy Local Fourth Annual Holiday Kick-Off Event
When: November 18, 8–10 a.m.
Where: Forrestal’s Gallery, 2904 Parmenter St.
Details: Mingle with Buy Local members! Just in time for holiday shopping the kick-off will feature holiday gifts, refreshments from Middleton restaurants and holiday music.
More information: danebuylocal.com

Holiday Earring Show
When: November 18–December 24. Opening: November 29, 5–8 p.m.
Where: HYART Gallery, 133 W. Johnson St.
Details: A show featuring over thirty artists from around the country and the UW School of Art. They’ll feature—you guessed it—earrings.
More information: 442-0562

Sarah’s Hope Jewelry Trunk Show
When: November 20, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Where: Goodman’s Jewelers, 220 State St.
Details: Meet owner and designer Sarah Smith, and see her new fall collection. Sarah’s Hope contributes ten percent of net profits to fund business micro-loans to women business entrepreneurs.
More information: 257-3644

Thursday Disco
When: Thursdays until Christmas
Where: Three Orange Doors, 2789 Fitchrona Rd.
Details: Save 10 percent on your entire purchase from 5:30–7 p.m. Wine will be served and the disco beats will be bumping. Christmas décor and jewelry and gifts will be available.
More information: 848-3336

Ladies’ Night with Champagne and Chocolate
When: November 21, 5–9 p.m.
Where: Chalmers Jewelers, 6202 University Ave.
Details: What isn’t going on? Chocolate and hors d’oeuvres. Chair massages by Haven Spa. A Fashion Show with items from J. LaMore, door prizes and a silent auction! Whew!
More information: 233-4700

MMoCA Holiday Art Fair
When: November 21–23. November 21, noon–6 p.m., November 22, 10 a.m.–5p.m., November 23, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Where: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St.
Details: Handcrafted, artful gifts from jewelry to décor and everything in between. Enjoy MMoCA’s current exhibtion while browsing!
More information: 257-0158, mmoca.org
(Photo: Renee Roeder Earley, Hats-O-Fancy, courtesy of MMoCA)