Over a few glasses of wine, friends Patti Platt and Sharon Borland discussed their retirement plans from the Maryland Judiciary. The idea of owning a small business was intriguing, but what type of business interested them? They decided that whoever retired first would choose between two areas; kayaks or bras. Interesting choice and very different businesses, right? Patti retired first in April 2003 and frustrated by the lack of fashionable bra choices for larger cup sizes, she decided on bras.
The first thing they did was settle on a company name. In French, à la mode means “in the fashion,” and therefore the products the business would carry would represent the latest and most fashionable pieces in the lingerie market. Next, a mission statement was developed that still holds true today. “Our mission is to ensure every woman is properly fitted in a comfortable, supportive, yet fashionable bra.”
The partners found a lovely space in downtown Annapolis that they thought would provide old world charm with its historic surroundings, old brick sidewalks and streets over flowing baskets of flowers and abundant unique small businesses. à la mode
opened its first boutique on West Street in Downtown Annapolis on Christmas Eve December 2003. With no experience or background in retail, it took us a little time to gain our footing and we learned a lot of lessons the hard way.
Since our first days in business, we have always gone to both the Spring and Fall Intima tradeshows in New York City to find brands and products to bring back to our store. We worked with fitting specialists from brands, other stores and independent organizations to truly understand how best to fit bras. And we worked to implement our business systems and inventory tracking to make sure we were able to manage such a large of assortment of sizes and colors in the intimate apparel business.
We kept working at it, and slowly things started coming together. Women were bringing friends from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Our regulars began making annual trips to Annapolis for a la mode events, from Florida to New York our customers responded with the most amazing loyalty and the highest recommendations of us to their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and even the occasional stranger!
à la mode Intimates success has, and continues to be, built on the idea that expert bra fitting services paired with a deep product inventory allows our customers to be properly sized, fitted and matched with the right product even when that involves less popular sizes not normally stocked by other stores.
As everyone knows, in 2009 the economy took an unexpected down turn. We started seeing all of the small businesses on our street, and even a few of larger ones, closing their doors. Within the first five+ blocks of West Street every retail shop had closed except for one art shop. We knew that the only way to survive the business would need to relocate. While we loved the quaint and cozy charms of our historic downtown location, our ever growing customer base spreading farther and farther across the Baltimore-D.C corridor and the entire mid-Atlantic region the business needed a larger space and more centralized access.
So in January 2011 à la mode
made a major move if only just 2 and a half miles away, to the newly developed Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole. The Annapolis Towne Centre has turned out to be “the perfect fit
” for our shop. We had outgrown our downtown boutique and we felt that the mall would be too impersonal. We didn’t want customers to just pass us by on the way to the food court, but we didn’t want them to have to search for us either. The Annapolis Towne Centre provides a unique and cozy blend of major retailers, local boutiques, luxury apartments, upscale condos and an amazing selection of restaurants.
à la mode has been recognized many times over the years from small regional awards to being nominated several times and being a finalist in the ‘Best of Intima’ Shop Awards. à la mode received a Small Business Award from our local Score chamber, “Best of the Bay” and “Best Small Unique Shop”, “Best Lingerie Shop”, “Readers Choice Award” and serveral others. But the greatest praise is the sentiments our happy customers often share with us.