Hi, I'm Deb.
My name is Deb Hassler. I'm a wife and mother of 4. For the last 30 years, I have always acted in a supporting role for my husband and his businesses as well as my 4 children. Now. at 54, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. My husband has traded in the chaos of small business operation for the steering wheel of a big rig. My kids are now adults starting their own families. It feels like the support services that I've always provided are no longer required. So what do I do now?
I'm starting a business. It's called Wit's End Fashions.
How did I end up here?
I've worked in retail management and operations for a long time. I've managed grocery stores, video rental stores (remember those?), online consignment shops and more. Most of the time those businesses belonged to me and my husband. By 2011, he'd had enough and wanted to go back on the road - driving truck. All well and good except I needed a job.
Starting at the bottom
You would think a bachelor's degree and many years in business would be enough to get you a decent job right? Even if it was, I wasn't having any luck finding the right work. After months of searching, I needed something. I started working at a local hotel as a cleaner. Six months of cleaning proved to me that I wanted something else, though I still wasn't sure what that was.
Finding my bearings
In 2012, I got a job at Macy's working in the women's department. To my surprise, I really loved the work. I met so many interesting people and developed great relationships with customers and colleagues. I was back to the thing I loved doing - working with customers and running my own show. Over time, the bureaucracy of a "big box" store encroached on the personal satisfaction I got from taking care of my customers. Not to mention the nights and weekends spent away from my husband. It was time to find another place to work.
The Perfect Job...Almost
I knew I wanted to stick with women's clothing and I also knew that a big box store wasn't the right fit for me. After some searching, I found a job at a local consignment shop called "The Bargain Hut" and fell in love with the business. Not only could I connect with customers on a daily basis, like Macy's, but I came to know many of my customers by name. And since this was a consignment shop, there were new twists that made it even more exciting.
When someone would bring in clothing to put up for consignment, I felt a sense of mystery. What would they bring in? There was also an element of partnership. They entrusted me with their clothing to be sold in the store. When that piece sold, we shared the profits.
Realization, Fear, and Going for It
I worked at the bargain hut for almost 2 years and loved it. But there was still something missing. It wasn't my store.
So I started to dream about the possibility of owning and operating my own consignment store. I knew I wanted to stick with women's clothing and fashion, but there were so many things that I knew I could do better. From clothing selection, to the way the clothing was displayed - I knew I could do it better.
I stopped dreaming about the store and I started working on building it. It's a scary thing to build a business, especially in New York State. And this time, I was the one building it with my husband by my side - not the other way around. All I could do it take things one step at a time.
Coincidence or Something More?
After many months of building my business plan and scouting locations, I settled on a building and a name: Wit's End Fashions. As soon as those decisions were finalized, the next thing I needed was store infrastructure - clothing racks, mannequins, and hangers. Coincidentally, there was a clothing store in the Arnot Mall that was going out of business. The name of the store?
I don’t spend my time reading the tea leaves, but I can’t lie to you – that one stuck with me.
The Beginning of Something Special
So that's my story. Wit’s End Fashions is the culmination of my life experiences as a wife, a mother, a business partner, an employee, and a dreamer. The shop, created by a woman, designed for women and for the benefit of women.
Thanks for reading,