On a chilly winter morning I breeze through Starbucks for an eggnog latte and then hurry up the street to J. McLaughlin, curious to see what tricks the high-end clothing store has up its sleeve. Upon entering, I am met with a warm burst of air and the friendly smiles of two very well dressed employees. “Let me know if you need any help!” one says cheerfully. “I just cranked up the heat,” says the other. “I hope it isn’t too hot in here.” I shake my head; the warmth is much appreciated.
The narrow shop is perfectly cozy and extremely easy to peruse, with each folded sweater and every hung dress neat as a pin. To the immediate left is a tiny men’s section, including dress shirts, knits, sweaters, pants and accessories such as ties, belts, socks and boxers. With both slim fit and regular fit shirts, there are a variety of plaids, checks, stripes and solids to appease any Dapper Dan. Gentlemen who are a bit more disheveled than dapper will appreciate the smaller selection, as it’s not at all overwhelming.
The women’s section is much larger with dresses, tops, pants, skirts and accessories befitting ladies who lunch (or who simply enjoy looking effortlessly chic). The reoccurring theme here is fun prints: from a gold chain link pattern on a button down shirt to an Ikat design on a wispy scarf. The color palette ranges from neutrals to bright jewel tones making the garments appropriate for the office or for a celebration. All items in the store could be dressed up or down and easily integrated into an existing wardrobe.
Manager Carol Hasslinger knows a thing or two about artfully building a versatile closet. She’s worked in retail for years and as a business owner. “First I find out what the customer is looking for,” she says. “Are they going to an event? Will they be traveling? A lot of our clothes are made of a really nice Catalina fabric – a French bathing suit fabric – that travels well and does not wrinkle.”
“Sometimes customers offer what their job is,” Hasslinger says. “They’ll say ‘I’m a lawyer’ or ‘I’m a teacher.’ I have helped people pick out their entire wardrobe! A lot of times it’s just taking the clues that they give you. You have to read your customer.” For those of you planning a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner date, stop by to stock up on something beautiful that you’ll want to wear again and again.
Everything in the store is private label. “The company was started by two brothers – Jay and Kevin McLaughlin – 35 years ago in Brooklyn, NY,” Hasslinger explains. Come in out of the cold to see what all the fuss is about.