White House retail chain moves headquarters from green house Move marks major expansion for retailer.

Commercial real estate

July 24, 1991|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,Evening Sun Staff

The house was green, but never mind that. Rick Sarmiento, owner of the White House specialty retail chain, has moved the company's office and distribution center from a one-time residential property in Arbutus to an office park in Linthicum.

The move marks a major expansion for the six-year-old firm that began as a market cart in Harborplace and has grown to include 10 stores along the East Coast. White House boutiques feature all-white clothing and accessories for women.

The company's new, 4,100-square-foot office and warehouse facility is in the Patapsco Business Center in the 800 block of Mary Barkwood Court. The facility is nearly three times the size of the firm's original headquarters -- a house in a commercial area in Arbutus on Knecht Avenue.

The Arbutus house was painted green -- and the White House used the basement of the home to store merchandise and its upper floors for eight office staff members, said Sarmiento.

"We were really maxed out there," Sarmiento said. "We really moved to have a larger distribution area."

A former hotel manager, Sarmiento left a position as general manager of Baltimore's Belvedere Hotel in 1988 to devote full time to the White House.

This month's move to larger quarters should help the company reach its expansion goals, he said.

This year, six new White House stores are scheduled to open in Bethesda, Edison, N.J.; Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Orlando, Fla.; and Boca Raton, Fla. The staff at the store level is expected to double to about 80 over the next six months.

Also, the firm plans to open 10 other stores in 1992 and is scouting locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas and Arizona.

By 1995, the company expects to have 60 stores throughout the country.

There are currently 10 White House stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Washington and Maryland. The Maryland stores are at Owings Mills and Harborplace.

Sarmiento said a clear focus has been the secret of the store's success.

"We had a clearly defined marketing focus, so that the customers know who we are," he said. "Having a clearly defined strategy helps in a crowded market."

Targeting both tourists and working women aged 25 to 45, the store's modestly upscale merchandise includes a range of clothing from casual to evening wear, in addition to suits for the office, pearl trimmed sneakers, jewelry and lingerie.

Also, the White House is known for an emphasis on customer service, Sarmiento said. Salespeople not only cater to shoppers while in the store, they send thank-you notes to those who make purchases and follow up by telephone with customers as new lines and items come into the store.

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