RIPON — Two sisters who enjoyed an almost instant success with their custom “All About the Girls” bra shop in downtown Ripon went before the Ripon Rotary Club this week to explain their business strategies.
They were recently featured in the Best of Intima Awards for 2012 in the national magazine of the same name out of a total of 167 nominated boutiques chosen by 16 premium brands on Aug. 5.
“This funky, sassy, zebra-striped, black and pink shop is also all about making the lingerie-buying experience as fun as possible,” the magazine staffers wrote. “This boutique takes the sting out of the often distressing experience of finding the right bra. They take bra fitting very seriously, offering clients top-notch expert advice.”
Kelly Reaveley and Julie Hamilton started out with a home business that grew into a small commercial location in the upstairs of the Odd Fellows Hall above a popular downtown Ripon restaurant on Main Street. The relatively small office space served as their headquarters for home bra-sizing parties and drew a growing number of customers to their small office suite.
Hamilton told the Rotarians that some of the women were intimidated by having to climb the narrow stairway to a location on the second floor they had never visited before and couldn’t see from the street. It wasn’t long before the women took over an empty building a few doors to the west and completely restored the interior with a storefront that has been compared to the best in the Bay Area.
The women told the Rotarians that they had fitted and sold some 15,000 bras from AA to Double K since they opened with each woman receiving an hour’s fitting time and pricing starting at about $50 and topping out at $75. Of that total number of clients, some 20 percent have had some form of breast cancer, they noted.
They said that with several women being fitted in the shop at any one time, they discourage husbands and boyfriends from wandering around the store during the fittings.”
“We tell them there is a gun shop right across the street that they might like to visit. It’s kinda creepy with guys hanging around,” they agreed. “Also the men have a choice of several restaurants where they can get a good cup of coffee.”
Reaveley further trumpeted their success saying they have been included in the top five in being the Best Concept Store for 2012 in all of the United States and Canada. She added that poor fitting bras have been linked to irregular cell development with resulting cancer. While 90 percent of the women in the U.S. wear bras, only five percent are properly fitted, she said.
“We do a lot of charities and speak to young girls urging them to come in for a proper fitting rather than being only concerned on how a bra looks from the outside,” Reaveley said. “We also do bridal showers getting all the girls together and we have a lot of fun.”
The business has gone online with virtual fittings and ships the support garments all over the country. They have done several parties as far away as San Diego.
They have a passion about providing the best in mastectomy bras and are proud of the product they provide. The women said those specialty bras often cost as much as $1,200 with insurance usually covering part of the cost.
“The price point on ours is $130 complete with fitting,” Reaveley said.
While some of their many fitting are serious business, they have fun most of the time with their customers. Reaveley said they were eating at a local restaurant when a woman walked through the back door who looked familiar to her.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere,” she asked the woman.
“Yeah,” she replied jokingly – I’m a 34 D!”
They both agreed that their customers feel very secure in their shop in its friendly environment. “And, what happens in the bra shop – stays in the bra shop,” they chimed.
Hamilton added, “Every product we carry we know what manufacturer designed it and for what purpose compared to the department stores and you won’t feel pressured.”
She added that their customers can bring in a dress and they will fit the bra to what looks best in that garment. They claim to be one of the few stores in the valley that carry the very light weight Spanx in addition to custom and post mastectomy swim wear.
They explained that it is a misnomer to think a tiny, but large busted woman has had enhancement surgery. It’s not necessarily true, they said of differing body styles.
Ripon chef John Mangelos, owner of the Barnwood Restaurant as well as the bra shop building, told his peers that few business people in the community believed the shop would be a success in Ripon. They have proved us wrong, he added.