Shop brings high-end fashion to Howard

Clarksville boutique sells women's designer clothes

Small business

Howard Business

December 15, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Is Howard County ready for a high-end clothing boutique, one that sells butter-soft Dero black leather cargo pants for $625, and red silk Olivia Rose Tal shoes for $210?

Cestaine Glover thinks the answer is yes.

Last month, she opened just such a store in the new Clarksville Crossing Center off Route 108 in Clarksville.

The store, Sesali's, carries shoes by such labels as Casadei and Giuseppe Zanotti that can't be found anywhere else in Howard County, she said, and clothes by Richard Tyler, Womyn, Cambio and others.

It also sells handbags, colorful jewelry, sleepwear and gift items. The challenge - and the fun - for Glover has been stocking the store with items that would appeal to Maryland women.

She shops for shoes in Miami and clothing in New York, starting with the brand names she knows and loves, but always looking for things that are new. She wants customers to find different and exciting things every time they walk into her store.

"I don't want people to come here and always see the same thing," she said.

Glover is taking local demographics into consideration, and the items in her store tend toward the classic and away from the trendy, she said. She is keeping her selection tight as she learns what sells best.

"We try to cater to an adult woman who is fashionable," she said. "The clothing is not for teen-agers. It's for that 30-something and over. It's fashionable, but it also has a fit. People want a good product, they want to look good."

Although there are evening dresses, there are plenty of casual clothes, too, including jeans by Cambio, a brand that Oprah Winfrey favors, and fun items such as a denim jacket lined with chinchilla.

Glover and her husband, retired professional football player Kevin Glover, live in Columbia. Cestaine Glover grew up in Queens, N.Y., and met her husband at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has been a lawyer since 1995, but has always been interested in fashion, she said.

"About two years ago, I started doing the research and started looking for a place," she said. As someone who traveled to New York or Atlanta to do her clothes shopping, she wondered whether other women were doing the same. She discovered they were. She also started calling clothing and shoe vendors and found that many were eager to place their wares in Howard County.

"The overwhelming response was they wanted to get into this market," she said. "They wanted it to be a high-end place that would carry their products well."

Sesali's certainly fits that criterion. The store has an elegant feel, with spacious dressing rooms, a large television surrounded by white leather chairs and a white leather sofa. The floor is covered with elegant olive- and gold-colored carpet, and a wooden walkway runs down the middle so customers can test shoes on both kinds of flooring.

Toys have been placed in dressing rooms for mothers who need to keep their children entertained while they shop.

In the middle of the space is a table with strappy shoes on display, including the red silk Olivie Rose Tal shoes for $210. To one side is a case filled with jewelry. Toward the back are the Richard Tyler creations, the most expensive items in the store, with a pink evening pantsuit costing about $1,000 and an elegant black evening sheath costing about $900.

"People who are looking for Richard Tyler kind of know" what the price will be, Glover said.

One attraction of her store, she said, is that shoppers can buy a complete outfit in a visit, with plenty of help from the sales staff. A dress, shoes, handbag and jewelry would require visits to several different areas of a department store, she noted.

Some customers will call to say they have a dress, for example, but need shoes. Glover is happy to help.

And customers seem to be returning the favor by returning for more afternoons of shopping. "We've had an amazing response," she said. "We've been open a month and our best customers have been repeat business."

Sesali's is at 6343 Ten Oaks Road. It is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

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