Sydney Ferren was the one that didn't get away. During her last semester of college, Sydney started working at the original Suite One location in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Twice, it seemed that life was drawing her time at the boutique to a close. But each time, her boss wasn't ready to let her leave and ultimately offered her the rights to open up Suite One Fayetteville. Sydney accepted.
The Fayetteville location is actually the newest of the three Suite One stores, which were originally launched in 2011 by Tasha Terry. Last year, she passed the torch of ownership onto her by then long-time employee Sydney to open the third location.
When you hear Sydney’s passion for relationships and heart for customer service, it’s easy to understand why Tasha felt comfortable letting Sydney take the lead on their newest storefront, and why she couldn't bear the thought of losing Sydney as an employee. So sit back, relax, and read on to learn how and why an exercise science major became the driving force behind one of Fayetteville’s up-and-coming boutiques.
How did you get involved in Suite One?
"One of my majors in college was exercise science, and I was doing an internship at the hospital in Fort Smith at the time. I reached out to Tasha - we had known each other because she’s also from Van Buren, where I grew up, and a few years ahead of me - and asked her if she needed an extra hand with anything at her stores.
She knew that I had retail experience so she said yes. It turned into a really good relationship that’s lasted this long.
I worked for her part-time at the end of college. When I was about to leave and look for a full-time job, she didn’t want me to leave so she asked if I wanted to become the manager full time. So I worked for her for about three years before I was going to get married and move up to Fayetteville.
That’s when she presented me the option that she would give me the rights to Suite One Fayetteville if I wanted it. So I did just that."
Your major was Exercise Science?
"Yes, it was exercise science. But I'd always worked in retail. I worked at a boutique all through college and I did a few small internships at the Dallas market. So I knew I wanted to stay in retail or fashion somehow, but by the time I realized that I was already halfway done with my major and I didn't want to switch. Instead, I added a business minor to my major and finished it out that way."
What about retail appeals to you?
"Well for one, I love clothes. But I was really drawn to it because I love building relationships with the customers. I love having those repeat customers come in where they're more than just a sale to you. They're a relationship that you build, they're a name. You know that they went to the beach two weeks ago, and you can ask them about their family.
And you know what their style is, so when they come in you can say, 'Hey we got new stuff in from this brand that you like!' or 'I know you like this type of shirt, and these are new!'
I think that's my favorite thing – having those relationships and having someone come in looking for something specific and then being able to help them find that. It’s really rewarding to me. That's what drew me in, the personal aspect of it."
What has been the biggest unexpected challenge of running your own store?
"One of the biggest challenges I've faced is getting exposure in Fayetteville, because it is a bigger city and there are a few established boutiques already. So the challenge has been making a name for ourselves by trying to stand out and be different, which I think we are. And once people find us, they tend to agree."
And what is it that makes you different?
"We don't stray from what we know. We don't get too crazy with what we offer. We want everyone to come in and find at least one item that they feel good in. Our slogan is, ‘Wear what makes you feel good.’ That could be a graphic tee or it could be a maxi dress–it's whatever that customer wants and feels best wearing.
We maintain a good balance of having variety in our stock but not so much variety that it becomes difficult for people to find what they're looking for. Also, we try to keep our price point at an affordable range, and I think that's also really upselling to customers.
I will say, I'm kind of surprised at the women that are coming into our shopping in Fayetteville. I expected a younger crowd, but we've ended up with a really wide range of customers. So I've tweaked my buying a bit to reach everyone in that range. It's been fun figuring that out, and I think that's another aspect that helps us stand out."
What's one thing you want people to know about the shop?
“That it's a place that you can come and get not only good options when it comes to buying a product that you are looking for, but also a great experience. I really push customer service with my girls and I want everyone that comes into Suite One to have a good experience all around, both with the clothes that they buy and the service that they experience.
I really hope we stand out in that aspect. I want to be the boutique that's known for excellent customer service. That's probably my number one thing that I want people to know.”
What’s in the future of Suite One?
“I'm super excited for the upcoming football season. It will be my first full football season here, since we opened October of last year.
We have a lot of red items coming, and we make our own Razorback graphic tees. This year we are actually making some for kids too, and some that will match mom’s outfit, which is really cute. That’s what I’m most excited about right now!”
To be the boutique known for excellent customer service is a worthy goal, no doubt. Go check out Suite One Fayetteville and experience first hand their feel-good clothes and ready-to-serve employees. Tell them Towny sent you (and you can download our free app to prove it! Plus, you won't want to miss the special perks waiting for you on there!).