When Stacy Smallwood came up with the strategy for Hampden, her Charleston-dependent luxurious boutique, she was dwelling in Dallas and working as a purchaser for Neiman Marcus. Her work gave her the chance to interact with a vast vary of vogue brands but she constantly assumed the designers she was most enthusiastic to purchase seemed much more suited for an personal retail expertise. “I noticed a market in the market place when brands like Rag and Bone and 3.1 Phillip Lim were gaining traction. It was a cool minute in style and I understood [they] were being superior served in a specialty retailer,” she recollects. So when a 1,500 sq. foot place opened up on King Street, just one of the city’s main business thoroughfares, she made a decision to get a leap of faith and open up up her individual boutique.

About the class of a 10 years, Hampden rapidly grew to become a cult favored among the females across the region who favored to discover scaled-down, tougher to discover designers or obtain sensible luxury items that designed perception with their city life. Up until finally 2020, the boutique was in excellent firm among comparable unbiased suppliers like Brooklyn’s Hen, Seattle’s Totokaelo, and Need to have Source, the Richmond, Virginia retail store turned promising e-commerce system. Whilst people all shuttered, as casualties of the pandemic, Hampden has not only survived but scaled up: Smallwood’s area on King Avenue is now much more than 10,000 sq. toes and she also has a 7,200 foot distribution middle for her brisk e-commerce business.

Stacy Smallwood with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez at Hampden’s Proenza Schouler pop-up shop.

Hunter Abrams/Courtesy of Hampden

Attaining money achievements wasn’t certain, especially because a person calendar year into her boutique’s opening came the economic crash of 2008. While mainstream retail was having difficulties, it was a blessing in disguise for Hampden. “I found the foot pattern of buyers on King Street. They didn’t want to stroll that added block to uncover my store. So when a location opened up that was nearer, I determined to go for it.” The new area, whilst conveniently found, was also double the dimensions for the identical quantity of rent. It was a large determination, since she’d want to fill the shop with far more products but Smallwood knew she had to go for it. “Taking that possibility at that moment when matters were being the worst was the greatest decision I at any time designed then,” she suggests.

However the boutique now occupies a formidable area of its block on King Road, virtually 70% of its clients are essentially out of state and shop on the internet. Smallwood had the foresight to diversify her audience from the get-go, recognizing that relying exclusively on brick-and-mortar would not be the smartest way to expand her business when she opened up in 2007. Although other brand names and retailers had been hesitant to give e-commerce at the time, Hampden did the opposite, “I’ve basically had a web-site because the working day I opened the keep,” she states. That determination turned out to be particularly prescient when 2020 strike, and the pandemic compelled her to briefly suspend in-man or woman browsing. While other boutiques had been compelled to furlough staff members or shut down for very good, Hampden was equipped to preserve 7 workforce on full income and endure a pandemic.

Hampden’s strong nationwide clientele also serves as a buffer supplied how polarized the political local weather has become. Together with the pandemic came two a long time of racial reckonings, mask and vaccine mandates, and other thorny conditions. There is an expectation for companies and makes to stand up for their beliefs, which then can possibly appeal to or repel customers, dependent on your personalized beliefs. Charleston, a relatively progressive city, is nonetheless a portion of the conserative South, and one Instagram tale or put up can be sufficient to transform off a significant portion of the condition. But luckily that may perhaps not make a difference when the majority of Hampden’s shoppers hail from all more than the region.

Smallwood’s instincts are not just limited to genuine estate and e-commerce conclusions, she also trusts her intestine when it comes to getting for the retail outlet. “What finishes up separating us from a department retail store is our unique voice and saying, I am passionate about this. I’m gonna acquire a danger,” she suggests. To that conclusion, Hampden at the moment carries above 175 makes that vary from luxury labels like Stella McCartney, Marni, and Proenza Schouler to smaller brands like Brogger, Kika Vargas, and Victor Glemaud. Smallwood’s combine is doing work — in the previous yr the store has viewed virtually $1 million in Proenza Schouler gross sales alone, proving that the store’s customers will not be reluctant to spend income on anything that Smallwood has place her seal of approval on.

While Hampden may possibly be one of a kind in the South for its fashion forward offerings, Smallwood has a more inclusive see on sizing, which is much less common amongst luxury outlets. The shop features a broader vary, inside of the limitations of what trend offers, and Smallwood isn’t frightened to fall a model if consumers can not fit into pieces. “I’m not a size two so when I am in a current market appointment I assume about who the client is. I can seem at some thing and know which is going to be excellent on somebody who’s a size 10 with a larger chest or a dimensions 12 who does not want to display her arms but even now desires to glimpse feminine,” she says.

Comprehension and connecting to her goal audience is in all probability Hampden’s biggest secret weapon to its survival. Her boutique has found ladies at all levels of their lives regardless of whether it’s commencing a new task, recovering just after an disease, or mourning a misplaced a single. “You’re in an personal place with a lady who’s getting undressed and, and she’s there to say, assistance me glance excellent and deal with the planet. The best reward we could at any time have is to be there for all those moments,” she suggests. She achieves this with a personable employees, which is evident on social media, as the team shares their travels and behind the scenes snippets on Hampden’s Instagram account. It’s not uncommon for a shopper to inform Smallwood and her crew that they created a journey down to Charleston, particularly to pay a visit to Hampden.

Building Hampden a desired destination for out-of-city purchasers and locals alike also features internet hosting ambitious events that are on par with the kinds you’d normally see at greater shops in big towns. In the previous Smallwood has lured designers like Tibi’s Amy Smilovic and Christopher John Rogers to come and chat up her most faithful purchasers at trunk shows and functions.

In honor of the boutique’s milestone birthday, Hampden is not holding back on functions. “I believe that that all that we have been via the past 15 was well worth celebrating in the course of the calendar year. It is a monumental factor as a retailer and little company owner,” states Smallwood of the total slate of occasions, which kicked off with a smaller 40 person evening meal with New York-primarily based label Sea again in February. Provided Proenza Schouler’s historical past of financially rewarding sales, just this previous 7 days Hampden threw a two-day affair that involved a restaging of the brand’s fall 2022 present at their e-commerce distribution middle. Right after the runway presentation, 150 shoppers meandered about to a pop up place in which they were able to shop the brand’s pieces. With a continual line at the sign up, it was a rousing good results. Later in the 12 months Smallwood designs on activations with Marni as effectively as trunk demonstrates with Rachel Gilbert, Brogger, and extra.

Hampden could possibly be celebrating 15 several years, but Smallwood is also contemplating about the following 15, specially as the South has grow to be a buzzy area for luxury makes. As labels get curiosity in Charleston, she appreciates Hampden is set up for accomplishment in the long run, “I welcome any new retail store on King Avenue for the reason that it will help elevate our metropolis as a browsing vacation spot,” she claims. Whilst if you request any of her devoted supporters, Hampden has previously done far more than its reasonable share to already create Charleston as a manner spot, many thanks to Smallwood’s hard get the job done.



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