In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Danny Reynolds, owner and president of Stephenson’s of Elkhart, an independently owned high-end fashion retailer in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. For more than 90 years, Stephenson’s has undergone several transformations – from custom tailoring to everyday fashions to special occasions – always with a strong focus on customer service and community involvement.
Stephenson’s opened its doors in October 1931 as an upscale, appointment-only dress shop. Since the mid-1960s, the business has been owned by the Reynolds family – first by Danny’s parents, then transitioning ownership to Danny in 1994.
When Danny took over as owner in the mid-1990s, change was on the horizon. Small businesses across the country, particularly retail, were facing an uncertain economic future. In the height of the big box store boom with online shopping on the horizon, Danny knew that if Stephenson’s was going to survive on Main Street, they would need to provide services and meet needs outside of what larger retailers were already doing. So today, Stephenson’s offers high-end clothing for special occasions, including bridal, homecoming, sportswear, and high-end men’s wear. This change is largely due to the in-person experience customers prefer when purchasing special occasion wear. Over the course of the last three decades, Danny has maintained this attitude of constant adaptation and transformation, always looking for the unique ways thatStephenson’s can meet his customers where they’re at.
In their conversation, Matt and Danny discuss the overall economic landscape for clothing retailers, how Stephenson’s continues to carve out a successful niche, and the importance of connecting with customers on a personal level as well as the community at large.