The secret to success at Bagatelle (200 Broadway St., Uptown Square, 861-3341) women's clothing store is in cultivating customers as friends who trust the quality of the merchandise as well as recommendations of the sales staff.
It's advice that comes from a seasoned crew that includes 23-year Bagatelle veteran Sue Jumonville, long-time alteration and sales specialist Carol Suhren, sales representative Marion Ecuyer, owner Pam Freeman, and new employee, Kathleen Demasiliere.
"We have a lot of customers that also are friends," says Freeman, who bought the quarter-century-old business a year ago. "We have a policy of brutal honesty with our customers. We'll tell them if something doesn't look good; we tell them not to buy it. We don't want to send them out of here with something that will just hang in their closet."
The staff focuses instead on helping customers find outfits or separates that will become wardrobe favorites, whether it's a silk knit shell, washable linen slacks or a dress for a debutante ball.
"One of the things we really work hard to do is to find good value for our customers," the owner says. "It's really hard work. We try, especially with the more expensive clothes, to carry basics that you can mix and match. We want to give people a lot of options."
The store carries a full range of fashion-forward clothing, including casual and resort-wear, a range of career clothes, sweaters, jackets, pantsuits, fashions for proms, debutante parties and weddings, and dynamic accessories in prices that range from $10 to $800. The jewelry ranges from inexpensive earrings, pins, necklaces and bracelets to higher-end items made with semi-precious stones. The store also offers light-as-a-feather hats in a range of colors that can be rolled up and stuffed in a bag without losing their shape or good looks and sleepwear that is lovely as well as utilitarian. Scarves of various colors also are a favored fashion accessory as are myriad handbags that range from glittering evening bags to straw purses with artificial flowers on them made by Baton Rouge design company Portaflora. Other accessories also are acquired from local designers and artists, such as the Kettenwerk line of jewelry from local designer Angie Carr.
"We like to do business with local vendors," Freeman says. "It's nice when you can have a personal relationship with the vendors and artists ... and support local businesses." Freeman's staff also works diligently to cultivate personal relationships with vendors from out of town to better serve customers who may need a piece of clothing in an odd size or a color not normally offered.
Another focus for Freeman and her staff is to find clothing that is easy to care for, will retain its looks through repeated uses and is made of fabrics that can be worn through several seasons.
"We want people to be comfortable in the things they buy from us as well as look good in them," she says. "It's fun to do something for somebody and have them light up and feel good about themselves. It's a day-maker. It brings me a lot of gratification and makes it fun to work here."
Martha Comes to New Orleans
Local entrepreneur and home fashion maven Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens and other local businesses will be featured in a special segment of Martha Stewart Living's two-week-long "Change of Place" series that features highlights of Toronto, Japan, Vermont, France and New Orleans.
The Crescent City segment will air Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. on WWL-TV (Channel 4).
Stewart covers the bases in her tour of the city, including stops at Martinique Bistro, where she discusses the restaurant's French and Caribbean cuisine with Hubert Sandot before moving on to the Crescent City Farmer's Market. She also explores creative and beautiful linens with Leontine Linens owner Jane Scott Hodges, as well as unusual tools of the cooking trade with Patrick Dunne, author of Epicurean Collector, at his Lucullus Culinary Antiques store.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Louisiana have received a $5,000 grant from Walgreen's drugstore chain to help fund oral health education programs. The grant is part of a partnership between the country's largest drugstore chain and Crest toothpaste in which a dime from every sale of Crest products at Walgreen's -- up to $100,000 -- will be donated to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 20 U.S. cities.
The partnership was announced in conjunction with Children's Dental Month in February. The donations will be used to fund oral health education and access projects at participating Boys & Girls Clubs.
- (Left to right) Owner Pam Freeman, sales associates Sue Jumonville and Kathleen Demasiliere say the key to Bagatelle's success is offering customers honesty, value and high fashion all in one stop.