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.

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.

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.

1 comment:

Anamika said...

I love your Blog Shayna!