Meet the Clothes Pros -- and Their Loyal Customers

SUPER SELLERS

October 31, 1993|By Vida Roberts Photography by Patrick Sandor

There are sales professionals in this town who have fans as loyal as any pop star's. But while pop stars don't give much in return, these people do. They create local fashion legends, advance business careers, turn dull guys into dashing dudes, put drama into working wardrobes and keep feet feeling tip-top.

They have an intimate knowledge of their clients' lumps, bumps and vanities, which they know how to camouflage with silks, tweeds and patent leather.

They make a difference in the way people dress and they make friends.

Selling clothes is their way of life. Here are profiles of five such super salespeople.

THE DEAN OF SPORTSWEAR

Hilda Levin is a whirlwind of energy dressed to the fashionable max. Maximum punch is what she understands, and she gives it to her customers.

"I started very part time at the Red Garter on Reisterstown Road," Ms. Levin says. "I had absolutely no experience, but I told the owner I could prove I could sell. The first day I did $800."

That was 12 years and many separates ago. She continues to be a sales force to be reckoned with. She's been with Miller Brothers for 10 years, and after a remarkably successful start on the sales floor she now sells and buys women's sportswear for the Towson Town Center store, one of the oldest family-owned women's specialty shops in the area.

"I worked for the sportswear buyer, but then when I really started selling he started taking me to the markets. When he left, I took on the buying job."

That doesn't stop her from selling.

"I'm on the floor all the time because that's what my customer needs."

Ms. Levin is show-and-sell every minute, and her energy and her eye don't stop. She picks up on the pauses as a customer flips through a rack and keeps returning to the same two-piece dress. Not her size. Ms. Levin sails through the hesitation; she's right there.

"Please, try it on -- to please me."

The customer tries, the alterations pro is called to make a few adjustments, and the dress is sold.

"It benefits her, it benefits me," Ms. Levin says. "Most of my customers are very fashion-forward, but 90 percent of the store is geared to the traditional, elegant Towson or Roland Park missy customer -- much more missy than trendy -- but we want to give them all terrific fashion."

She says her trendy clientele keeps her young, but "we'll probably all grow older and become missys." Not a chance, Ms. Levin.

On the floor she's a dervish. Selling, shmoozing, styling. And she knows what the customers want.

"It's the buying that gets me excited," she says. "When I go through the showrooms for the season, names of customers pop into my mind. Pretty much of what I buy has a name on it."

The clearance rack shows some glitzy leftovers. Were they too much for Baltimore?

"I don't how the myth that Baltimore women don't dress got started," she counters. "Women here love to dress up.

"I watch and listen. There is a customer for all styles and all price points, and I try to cover all customers. In sportswear I can give you a three-piece outfit for $178 or take it to $800. But whatever, it has to look good."

She sells service, and not exclusivity.

"I have 20 to 25 solid customers who are ready and waiting for new things to come in. I call them up and they'll say, 'I'm coming in, don't sell it.' That's because they know I have their look down pat."

That arrangement has made her career.

"I give an opinion on an outfit and I tell it straight." And her customers know it.

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