My Day with the Retailer on the Move

Brian Brown, ReporterNot long after I met Meghan Chambers – owner of upscale women’s clothing store Staxx and children’s clothing shop Jellybeans – it occurred to me that Springfield Business Journal was getting unique access into what has to be one of the most hectic days for a retailer: the day before opening day.

Imagine the scenario. She was preparing to open her two established retail stores side by side in a yet-unfinished mixed-use retail, office and residential community. And tagging along, throughout the day, was a business reporter and photographer.

Make no mistake, we wanted the feature with Chambers largely because we knew it was an active time for her. But scheduling conflicts in the weeks leading up to May 15 pushed our deadline to the brink, and the day before opening day was, ultimately, all that would work.

To Chambers’ credit, she could have told me a couple of times before our Thursday together to get lost, and I would have needed to scramble to find another interesting Springfield business personality to follow. But she didn’t. We were there to see purses on the area rug, boxes in piles across the store, and the fashion-savvy Chambers in overalls with her hair down. I really think that level of transparency is admirable.

MC Talking

Chambers talks with a project manager from Adam Pyle & Associates as her daughter runs around.

MC purses

At 9:30, when I walked in the door, there were 26 purses on the area rug.

Though it is impossible to know how people act when you are not around, I got the sense on my own and from her employees that Chambers thrives in chaos.

Staxx Creative Director Tara Hamilton told me it wasn’t uncommon for Chambers to switch gears mid-sentence in the best of times. On our Thursday, Chambers was often being tugged in one direction or another by an employee, service provider or a contractor with questions. Some people don’t hold up well under those circumstances, but she seemed in her element.

In fact, at one point in the afternoon when she became aware that I had just seen her talk to seven or eight people within a roughly three-minute period, she said: “This was normal.” Chambers, with a laugh, said it was good she had Attention Deficit Disorder. I never asked her if there had ever been a clinical diagnosis. I got the sense that she just knew how to focus in the eye of the storm.

Another takeaway from the day for me was that Chambers was no pushover. Whether she was talking directly to me or to a representative from AT&T on her smartphone, questions were common. From me, for example, she wanted to know whom I had followed before, and what those days were comprised of. When a pair of security system reps told her she had phone and Internet access, she said, “I have phone and Internet?” with a knowing smile. “Try again.” What they meant to say was the infrastructure was there and it was all ready to be connected.

She also seemed to have very loyal employees. I was impressed by the fact that Gabe Jackson, a former Staxx worker who is now a department manager at a Sak’s Fifth Avenue location in Beverly Hills, took vacation time to help Chambers with the move. In addition, she said she hadn’t posted a work schedule for the two days before opening. They knew what needed to be done and made themselves available as soon as Chambers herself could get in the spaces to work. She attributes the loyalty, in part, to the open-book management style she adopted from her father, Jack Stack, of SRC Holdings Corp. and “The Great Game of Business” fame.

And then there was the attention to detail. Through all the chaos, Chambers knew how she wanted her stores to lay out, what would hit the customers’ eyes first, and what their experience should be like. The security monitor should be lower; this set of fixtures should be gold, and so on.

A large “toys” sign hangs above the clothes at Jellybeans.

A large “toys” sign hangs above the clothes at Jellybeans.

Chambers, 33, seems poised for success with her new side-by-side stores. Once settled in to the new spaces, Chambers said she plans to commit to a four-day work week, so she can spend more time with her two girls, ages 4 and 2. Whatever unfolds, I’m sure she’s equipped with what she needs to handle it, and I’m glad that we, and our readers, got to feel like we were with her in the beginning.

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