I love shopping locally, and in my opinion Portland, Ore., is a mecca for local sprees. I feel so good when I walk into a little boutique with adorable merchandise, and the owner, who happens to be the only employee, greets me. She also helps me out with my size, talks to me about my day and instantly becomes my friend. In turn, I instantly become a regular. I sign up for her e-mail list, which is her biggest form of advertising next to word-of-mouth, and I attend every in-store event. Stellar customer service truly is the best sales tactic, and locally owned and operated stores seem to thrive on this philosophy, exercising it every business day.
Can you tell I just had a fantabulous local experience? Oh yes … I did indeed. It started when I walked into this barely noticeable (except for the cute clothing displayed in the window!) store front. It was a dreary moment during the day, and we were having a typical Portland spring afternoon where Mother Nature can’t decide if she wants to be sunny or rainy.
When I thought the sky was clear and there would be a long sunshine stint, I went out for my lunch time stroll and headed to the cute little store. Lo and behold, guess who was caught in the rain without the proper rain gear. Yep, yours truly. Into the store I ran, and was slightly perturbed with my damp Cole Haan bag and even more soggy Sam Edelman shoes—scolding myself for refusing to carry an umbrella. What’s a girl hopelessly attached to the spring time sunshine to do?
I had been to this secret of a store prior to this drenched day, and was privy to their distinctive clothing lines (yet another reason why I love local boutiques—you can buy almost anything in the store and maybe five other people in your close to one million person town will have the same thing).
I first noticed the modest store while riding home after a long day of work on
the Portland public transit light rail. The train took me past this
slightly concealed storefront with one of the most unique dresses hanging in the
window. I instantly knew where my next
lunch-time jaunt would take me!
When I arrived at noon the next day, they only had the
single dress displayed in the window. I knew it wasn’t my size, but in a last act of desperate hope I tried on the little
lovely anyway. I slid the dress down way
too easily over my head and looked at myself in the full length mirror. I could barely see the shape of my body! I was literally swimming in the thing. Humph, well, at least I tried.
I sulked out of the fitting room, dress
limply in my palm, and handed it back to the nice lady. She looked at my almost lifeless body
(dramatic I know, but we are talking about a ‘meant for me’ dress here) and
assured me she would order more just for my sake. My head raised, my shoulder’s recovered from
their slump, the corners of my mouth turned up, I happily gave her my e-mail
and telephone number (I actually offered her my PO Box, Social Security
number and emergency contact information just in case, but she thought that
was a bit too much).
A few weeks later her shipment came in, my beloved
dress in the mixed bag of goodies. She
sent me an e-mail and immediately received a reply …. an automatic ‘out of office’
reply. I had just left for an 11-day
vacation. She kindly, lovingly
“I just received your ‘out of office reply’ and know you
won’t be back for some time. I only have
one dress in your size, but no worries! I will hold it until you return. I look forward to seeing you.”
Oh my goodness! What did I do to deserve such treatment? The answer to that is … not much. All I did was simply come in to her store—once. Customer service is not dead my fashion friends—it is alive and well in our local lovelies from town-to-town. Needless to say, I walked out with my beloved
dress and cared no more about the rain-drenched day. I was flying high with a new dress and a new
store I will be visiting on a weekly basis. Now I just need to find some shoes to go
with my adored new dress! The dress was obviously meant for me, as was, in my opinion, Portland’s best boutique.
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