Fashion is an industry where things change at a breakneck pace, so when something stands the test of time, you know it’s special. This definitely applies to Gardiner & Co., an accessory boutique in Ridgewood, NJ that’s been run by Jane O’Grady for over 30 years. We got the chance to talk to her about what it’s been like to be in the business for these past few decades, and how staying true to her principles and to timeless style has helped her to be successful!
Q: Gardiner and Co. has been a staple of Ridgewood shopping for a while now. When did you first open the store? Was this your first location, and what was it like running the business in the early days of your boutique?
A: I opened the store on August 4th, 1989, so I’ve been here 34 years. It’s amazing! This was my first location, first and only. It was so different back then. There was no social media, so I would come to work, open the door, customers would walk around outside, come in, buy something. It was different! No cell phones, nothing like that. I didn’t have to worry about anything else but selling. Now you have to post, get out emails, there’s a lot of other things that the job requires.
Q: What inspired you to open your store? Have you always had a love for fashion, and for accessories in particular?
A: That’s such a great question! My first job was when I was 16. I was in a department store that really taught me about selling and the importance of customers. I was selling shoes, and from that moment on I wanted my own store. I’ve always wanted to do this, I've always loved fashion and it was something I just kept pursuing!
Q: Ridgewood has been the home of Gardiner and Co for many years. What are some ways that the area and your customer base have changed over time? What are some things that remain the same? Is there anything in particular that you love about having your business here?
A: Ridgewood, and any town really, has changed so much. We originally had a ton of Mom and Pop stores here, and that’s kind of gone by the wayside. Then we had a lot of name stores like The Gap that went by the wayside, and we’re slowly but surely having more independent stores coming in again, so it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. But I've stayed here!
It’s very interesting how I've built my business over the years. Customers buy something in my store, they go out, someone makes a comment on it, and then they come in as well. It’s all about word of mouth and having the right product. Women today won’t sacrifice comfort like they did in the old days, but they still love style and fashion, and that will never change.
I just love my store, it’s my third child! I’m very protective of it, and I work hard to make it successful. Ridgewood has a great downtown shopping area. Every day I get a new customer. Someone will see something in the window or see someone wearing something and come in. Being here is great, it’s always evolving.
Q: What’s something you’re especially proud of in regard to Gardiner and Co.?
A: The thing I’m most proud of, besides the business I've built, is the relationships I've built. I’ve met the most incredible women over the years through my store and they’ve become my good friends! Even if they have no plans of purchasing anything, they’ll stop in the store and say hi and have coffee with me. I’m so lucky to have so many amazing women in my life, I'm so proud.
I’m especially proud of the longevity of these relationships. They trust me, and I’m honest. I’ll sacrifice a sale to be honest, and I say to my salesgirls all the time, it’s better to let a person leave the store without making a purchase but have them leave happy. If you just make the sale for the sake of the sale, they won’t come back. I really believe that. People come in all the time just asking for fashion advice without buying anything, so it keeps coming back to my relationships and being honest with my customers.
Q: Fashion these days is changing more rapidly than ever, but some things never change. What are some of your favorite staple accessories that you always have in the store?
A: I always have the perfect black boot, the perfect nude sandal, the perfect classic shoulder handbag, but they always have a twist. Fashion is changing like crazy, but for instance, for the fall I have a beautiful classic boot in black and in cognac coming in that has a platform, which is very big right now. I’m keeping up with fashion and I’m always looking for the next best thing, but I stay timeless. You aren’t going to come in here and find something that’ll be out of style next year. I focus on things that will last.
Q: What are you the most excited about for the future of your store? Do you have any big plans in the works, or are you looking forward to an exciting fashion season that’s coming up?
A: Fall fashion is always my favorite, always! It brings me back to being a little girl with back-to-school shopping, I just love it. I’m always looking for new designers that will fit within my style, and I want to keep doing what’s been working for me and never sacrifice style and comfort.
I think all the time about what I'm going to do in the future, if I’m going to keep doing this, and yes, I am! I love it. I’m so proud of what I've done and I absolutely love it! If I didn't love it I don't think Gardiner & Co. would be as successful as it is, and I think that shows my enthusiasm.