(Filed Under Fashion News). After 45 years in Englewood, N.J., the owners of Adele & Agnes, the quaint, unassuming lingerie boutique on East Palisade Avenue, have shared a lot with the city.
Sisters Pam Kahler and Barbara Saad, who helped their mother with the store since the '60s and took it over when she died, have watched the population almost double, the people become more suburban, the women open themselves up to more ways of taking care of themselves: finer lingerie, innovative shapewear, even plastic surgery, which Pam says is now a booming trend.
They've been there for her the whole time: learned her name, listened to her stories, helped squeeze her shape into an hourglass for that perfect wedding dress she wouldn't give up, guided her husband to the perfect chemise for her birthday, given her the bra she needed for her new chest, or for the one she lost with the mastectomy.
Now it's time for someone else to be the city's sisters. Pam and Barbara are not young anymore, not up for the demands of retail. They're ready to retire. and ready to sell their store.
"It's been a wonderful journey," Pam said. "But it's just time to move on."
Whoever inherits Adele & Agnes will get a shop that has changed a bit over the years, of course, but has also remained remarkably the same, still prizing the dedication to family and service that started it.
In 1963, Agnes Saad, whose husband had recently died, picked up her life in Spring Valley, Illinois, and moved to Englewood. Needing to support her children, she quickly learned how to fit bras and opened up the store with a partner, Adele Hadad.
Adele left the store two years later, but Agnes had her daughters, who picked up the slack, even began running things. Soon Barbara left her teaching career to help, later Pam followed. When Agnes died in 1998, the sisters took over the store and began experimenting with taking it beyond its core of foundation pieces, adding sleepwear, swimwear, "even nursing uniforms, at one point!" Pam laughs.
Now they've realized that the foundations - good foundations, ones that they fit with smiles and lots of advice - are their strong point, are what the community comes to them for. They've expanded their offerings: body suits, pant liners, long-line bras and girdles from brands like Wacoal, Rago and Body Wrap. They've talked with a local plastic surgeon about what his patients want; they've talked with mothers and daughters about their concerns with the figure they were born with, or the one time gave them.
"We don't want to compete with Target and Kohl's for gowns and robes and sleepwear," Pam said. "We decided what we do best is what our mother based her store on %u2014 personalized fitting for women with troubled figures, or hard-to-fit dresses, or women coming out of surgery."
"A lot of women find it more comfortable in our 870-square-foot store," she added. "It's that intimacy they're looking for, that they wouldn't be able to get at a chain or a department store, that established shop where they get that attention."
It's that intimacy they hope will be carried on by the future owner. She can change the stock, maybe add something sexier to the shelves. She can change the look - maybe paint over the long tin ceiling, switch the display on the tall window in the front, replace the two chairs that have held Pam and and Barbara for decades. But she can't change the mission.
"We want someone who can be part of the community like we've been, someone who wants to get to know the customer's name and her family or his family," Barbara said. "We don't believe in self-service. We need her to find out what her needs are, to listen to her. That's the kind of woman that we need."
For the sisters, the goodbye can only be described as bittersweet.
"It reminds me almost of when my mom didn't want me to leave and make a life for myself out in Illinois, but she knew she had done the best and that this is what raising children is all about," Pam said. "It's like, 'I don't want to see you leave but I know you can make it,' that kind of thing. I look at this store as a sibling. It's time to see if it can go forward on its own."
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