For Uptown residents, an afternoon in the picturesque Riverbend shopping area is a time-honored way to spend a Saturday. After an initially nerve-wracking period when Rye Clothing (714 Adams St., 872-9230) opened, owner Gisele Cosma finally enjoys these leisurely days with her customers.
"The first four weeks, I have to tell you, were absolutely terrifying, but by week number five, I could breathe in and out," she says.
Cosma's anxiety soon gave way to relief at the store's success. Rye's canny mix of women's ready-to-wear apparel, jewelry and bags is a hit with students, career women and mothers alike, while its varied price points appeal to the "recessionista" mindset. Cosma incorporated cost diversity as part of her original vision for the business.
"I can create something that has a little bit broader of a price point so that somebody can come in and feel good at whatever price point they're at," she says. Cosma set out to create a shopping environment that wasn't wedded to a narrow aesthetic. Many pieces at Rye do share a "look," but it's about a contemporary sensibility and awareness of good design rather than any one style. Cocktail dresses in this spring's modern florals mix comfortably with embellished jersey tees and a sweater with architectural rosettes. The focus on detail and fabrics creates a sense of unity among the pastiche of garments.
Part of the new store's success is due to Cosma's background in advertising, real estate and consulting. Her experience with diverse clienteles gives her a skilled touch with customers.
"I'm used to approaching people ... and hopefully making them feel a little bit comfortable, making them feel like a participant in their experience," she says.
Cosma likes to point visitors toward garments they may be overlooking. She says people aren't always aware of their surroundings, even things that are right under their noses. "People don't necessarily see everything that they're looking at," she says.
Cosma says mentors at Hemline and The Red Carpet helped her get Rye off the ground, but adds there's no secret formula for a store's success.
"It's a little bit of magic ... it's good luck, it's good marketing, it's a good price point," she says. "On top of everything else, it's great customer service and relationships."