"Bras and swimwear are generic – women are not!” says Tina Karakourtis, proprietor of Tina’s Closet, a specialty boutique with over 3,400-square-feet of retail floorspace.
Karakourtis opened Tina’s Closet over 23 years ago in Lisle, IL; an eco-friendly village near Chicago. “[My store] is specifically designed for those who do not have off-the-rack measurements: customized solutions are available in both bras and swimwear. Alteration services are available to the Tina’s Closet customer who has unique body requirements.”
Housed in the store is “The Bra Room,” which is nearly 1,000-square-feet dedicated exclusively to bras running in cup sizes from AA through K “and anything we can custom-fit in between that!” Karakourtis—who has worked in the service industry “all my life”—added that she can custom-fit just about any bra-band. This private area enables her to work “in a matrix-like format to deliver ‘the perfect fit’ to each individual customer.
“At Tina’s Closet, it’s not just about fitting bras, it’s about bra education!” Karakourtis emphasized. “Because an informed customer makes responsible purchasing decisions, I educate each and every [shopper] on how to put on a bra, how to wear a bra, and how to care for their bras in order to make the most out of their investment in a ‘perfect fit.’”
The ‘bra room’ inventory includes pre-teen, everyday, special occasion, maternity, sports, and mastectomy bras as well as other undergarments; Tina’s Closet houses plenty of other inventory; over 50,000 items to be exact, reported Karakourtis.
But despite the prominence of the bra room, the store covers the gamut of apparel categories; including sportswear, special occasion dresses and separates and swimwear. A professionally trained fitter manages the swimwear area. In order to further accommodate the needs of “real-figured” customers, the store also carries formal-wear to meet the needs of full-busted women, including prom dresses and mother-of-the-bride apparel, as well as accessories like jewelry and water sandals, including “A Perfect Sandal,” which Karakourtis manufacturers herself. Bra prices run in the range of about $20 to $130, depending on individual tastes and sizes, and swimwear runs from about $60 to more than $200. “The Tina’s Closet inventory is designed to provide quality that fits into any household budget,” Karakourtis remarked.
The store’s merchandise spans over 250 brands including bras and panties by Wacoal, Chantelle, Goddess, Fantasie, Freya, Jezebel and Carnival; undergarments by Rago, Vanity Fair and Body Wrap; and swimwear by Panache, Caribbean Joe, Roxanne and Anita, to name just a few.
According to Karakourtis, the store’s customer base is made up of over half a million women of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and sizes; “many of who are part of several generations of loyal customers.” Karakourtis uses Microsoft POS software, which Karakourtis customized to meet the demands of her customers, allowing her to track each customer’s purchase history, customization needs, etc. “The tracking of each individual has helped me provide exceptional customer service to my customers, [and] gives me important information on how to shop for next season,” she said.
“Alterations that were performed on each customer are kept on file so that when a customer phones in an order, we know exactly what to do.”
Tina’s Closet is a first-come/first-serve establishment, and while some women may occasionally wait two hours for their turn in the Fitting Room, Karakourtis says that her reputation for exceptional service is what keeps her customers loyal.
“Because of the personalized customer service model adopted at Tina’s Closet, I am always available during store hours to meet the needs of my customers,” she explains.
“Every customer has her time in the Fitting Room, no matter how long it takes; a Perfect Fit cannot be rushed. One customer may love the very first bra I give her, while another woman may need to try on several bras and manufacturers before she finds her ‘Perfect Fit’ (like a sports bra, special occasion and strapless). With nine bra fittings rooms running constantly, my customers are able to take their time and make sure that their needs are met before they make their purchase.
“At Tina’s Closet, it’s not about selling bras; it about providing great customer service. I love solving, engineering and customizing everyday bra solutions that meet my customers personal needs,” stated Tina.
Tina’s Closet is located at 4745 Main Street, Suite 107, Lisle, Ill.