Wendy Chapman knows what it’s like to juggle multiple careers. She’s not only the owner of Wendy, her eponymous women’s clothing store in Nickels Arcade, she’s also a commercial real estate appraiser. “I’m splitting myself, much like the atom!” she laughs. Though her goal eventually is to be at the store full time, right now she’s backed up by partner Johnny Vaughn.
It’s women like herself that Wendy, the store, is targeting. “The one thing I think will set us apart is we have a big focus on customer service,” Chapman says. That includes meeting with customers by appointment outside of regular store hours as well as delivery services–even popping over to a woman’s office with an emergency replacement outfit if she’s faced with an unexpected client meeting and finds a stain on whatever she’s wearing or needs an evening outfit on the spur of the moment. “Continue to cure cancer, continue to split the atom,” Chapman offers. “Just let us take care of your clothing.”
Chapmann, forty-seven, is a fashion maven, but she cheerfully admits she doesn’t have a lot of retail clothing experience. That’s where Vaughn comes in. Thirty-nine and a professional artist whose paintings are sold all over the country, he’s got twenty years of experience selling clothes, including a stint at the Gap. “I’ve been a district manager, a general manager, a corporate manager, an area manager … any job you could have in retail, I’ve had,” he says. He describes himself and Chapman as good friends who discovered they had a mutual interest in fashionable clothing. They were both at a point where they were trying to decide what to do next with their lives, and Chapman said she’d wanted to open a fashion boutique for years. Vaughn was just the guy to help her make it happen: “We both like clothing, I like retailing, I can do this,” he says.
They look like a bit of a mismatch. Stocky and amiable in a comfy blue sweater over a light-colored shirt and paint-spotted blue jeans with short dark hair and a close-cropped but slightly unkempt beard, he’s Spencer Tracy to her Katharine Hepburn. Her long hair pulled back, she strides about in an elegantly drapey blouse and high-waisted black pants.
Wendy carries a full line of women’s clothing. “Our focus is on quality and the range of what women need to fit a lifestyle,” Chapman says. “Career, casual … we run the gamut.” She says her customers are women from their early twenties to their seventies. “Our clothing isn’t youthful in the sense of Urban Outfitters … but there are plenty of pieces we have that appeal to a decades-wide range.” Some of the lines she and Chapman carry include Zelda, Leota, Comfy USA, and Julian Chang. At some point they plan to add accessories, including jewelry and hosiery.
Zelda, inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, is their high-end line. Pieces include 1920s flapper-inspired tops, gaucho pants, sailor pants, and trench coats–what Vaughn calls classic pieces. “When you buy Zelda, you’re buying an investment piece,” he says. “You can have this your entire life.”
They didn’t have to do much to the 600-square-foot space, formerly Moda Blue–just paint the walls a sandy linen and rip up the blue linoleum to reveal the original hand-laid tile floor. Chapman loves the Arcade, which she calls “a sweet little gem that a lot of people overlook.” She likes the elegant feel of it and thinks Wendy is a perfect fit alongside stores like Van Boven and Maison Edwards.
Chapman says other women’s clothing stores in town are very good at what they do, but she doesn’t consider them competition. “We don’t want to carry the same lines others carry,” she says. “We’re focused on quality and longevity.”
Wendy, 5 Nickels Arcade. 327-9001. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m., and by appointment.