May 2008

Patricia's Boutique: Beauty at Every Age

Author: Linda Hopkins

On an island where businesses often come and go based on the habits and whims of seasonal visitors, smart owners understand that long-term success lies with the locals. Patricia Maycumber caught on quickly when she moved her store, Patricia’s, from its original location in Coligny Plaza to the more resident-friendly Village at Wexford in March, 2002. Now in her sixth year there, the business has evolved to suit its new location and clientele.

Today, approximately 70 percent of Maycumber’s regular clients are area residents who have discovered her personal approach to customer service. Many annual visitors also feel the powerful draw of cozy familiarity and become repeat customers.

“When customers come in, I want them to feel like they’ve come home,” said Maycumber. “This is like the clothing version of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody knows your stories. We’re concerned about you and we wish you well. Buying clothing is an aside.”

Those who appreciate the relationship-driven service also appreciate Maycumber’s unique buying approach. Actively seeking out vendors who are not featured in other area stores, she also limits the number of items she buys per style. “You’ve gotta be a digger here, because I only buy two or three of an item. If you’re looking for something specific, speak up,” she said.

She also makes it a point to accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes. “When I first took over the business, the sizes went from 6-14,” said Maycumber, who bought the store in 1991 from original owner, Patricia Graham. “Being a plus woman myself at that time, I immediately added larger sizes. It [the plus size department] was only about a third of my store, but many people still think, ‘Oh, that’s the fat ladies shop.’ Not true.” Now offering sizes 2-26, about 80 percent of the clothing at Patricia’s is in the missy sizes.

“I like to offer updated looks for a missy fit,” she said. “The whole concept of aging has changed in our country. A 60-year-old woman doesn’t necessarily look 60. Nobody’s setting the rules anymore. I bring in vendors that no one else has so that there is exclusivity to what customers buy here.”

And there’s a variety, too. “We sell designer-copy paint splatter jeans and we also sell Ema Savahl gowns. And then we’ve got Flax in the middle. So there’s something for everybody,” she said.

Flax is one of Maycumber’s most popular lines and a part of her “Simply Funky” department. Specializing in yarn-dyed linen, the easy-care fabric, unique designs and broad range of sizes make it a versatile choice. It is available in the store as well as at her online store, thebeachboutique.com. Patricia’s is the number one vendor of Flax in the Southeast and one of the top three in the country. “There’s a following for it. If they are into Flax, all they want to know is the new colors and styles,” said Maycumber.

Earth-friendly choices
“We’ve carried Flax for years because it is a natural, renewable fabric,” she continued, explaining that the line is a part of her “go green” campaign. In addition to the linen group, she carries XCVI, a line of 100 percent cotton, prewashed and preshrunk, for the ultimate in relaxed style and easy care.

Expanding the department, she has recently added Pineapple Moon’s casual, washable silks and Cynthia Maxx’s collection of tencel, a renewable wood fiber known for its flattering drape and luxurious look.

*Flax is a natural renewable fabric, which Patricia carries as part of her “green” line.

Taking environmental awareness a step further, starting in May, Patricia’s will offer reusable fabric shopping bags and will reward customers with a discount each time they bring them in. “By limiting the use of plastic bags, we’re trying to take baby steps to become less oil dependent,” Maycumber explained.

In store specialties
Maycumber takes pride in offering a diverse shopping experience for her customers that includes all the latest casual, cruise and special occasion wear.

Over the past 18 months, she has expanded her evening department, offering separates, bare dresses (sleeveless styles), jacketed dresses and non-traditional wedding gowns, in sizes 2-26.

Patricia’s carries an extensive line of Charles Albert jewelry, including many of his one-of-a-kind designs, all incorporating natural stones and shells. Other specialty items include sterling silver scripture bracelets, colorful flip-flop charms and a variety of fashionable jewelry and accessories to put the finishing touch on any outfit.

With a small collection of shoes as well, Patricia’s is a one-stop, head-to-toe source for evening wear and fun daywear.

In style now
“If there’s one new body that is taking over everything, it’s the bubble,” said Maycumber, pointing out a Samuel Dong trench coat with an oversize collar and surprising flounce of bubble that hits just below the knee. The coat, originally offered in black, is now available in white, pink and metallic tones for spring.

Expect to see lots of retro styles, too. Look for the cropped jackets of the 1950s as well as ’60s-style skimmer shifts in updated fabrics with prints reminiscent of the classic hit television show, Laugh In.

You’ll find traditional bottoms and an abundance of tops. “Merchandise turns fairly quickly, so come frequently to see the latest,” Maycumber advises.

Customer care
In appreciation of her loyal clientele, Maycumber makes sure her customers are aptly rewarded. Regulars who sign up for a frequent buyer card get a coupon for 10 percent off their next Patricia’s purchase plus a $100 gift certificate for every $1,000 they spend thereafter. Maycumber also keeps her regulars informed through her e-mail newsletters, providing not only updated style news, store promotions, coupons and information on special events, but also tidbits of general interest. For example, in a recent newsletter, she offers fundraiser fashion shows for women’s groups and non-profits, an opportunity to sign up for a Caribbean cruise and advice on how to get more for your money at the gas pump.

Clearly, Maycumber is a merchant who cares. “There are many other opportunities to buy here,” she said. “What sets us apart is our unique merchandise in limited quantity and our helpfulness. We’re so glad you’re here!”

Visit Patricia’s at the Village at Wexford, Mon.-Sat. from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. or shop online at www.beachboutique.com. For more information, call 843-785-7795.

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