By Noelle H. Lowery
When you walk into Sandpiper Clothiers, you know you are in for a unique shopping experience. Color pops everywhere from the Vera Bradley display of florals and paisleys in the back to the reds, blues, pinks and oranges of the Bella Bags adorning the walls around the shop.
Some customers wade through racks of resort-style designs from Lilly Pulitzer, Lisette L Pants and Foxcroft for women and Kahala, Berle and Hook & Tackle for men, while others mill about an array of swimwear, shoes, jewelry and adorable toys. Located at 1069 N. Collier Blvd. in the Marco Town Center, the door to Sandpiper Clothiers never stays closed for very long.
It is no small wonder this Marco Island staple is bustling with activity. The shop’s owner, Freddie Reynolds, knows her stuff. In fact, with three stores currently open and a strong online retail presence, Sandpiper Clothiers is celebrating 40 years of business this year. The first location has called the private community of Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo its home since 1963.
“I was bored,” says Reynolds of her ideato open a clothing store. “We owned a dry storage marina, and I was the only female among 60 employees. I thought (opening the store) was something that might be fun.”
It is a sentiment that not only helped Reynolds create a booming enterprise but that also has carried throughout her family. Over the last four decades, Reynolds has been joined in the business by her two daughters — Sandra Hawkins and Barb Perdue — and Hawkins’ three daughters — Shauna Lee, Dawn Elizabeth and five-year-old Allysa, who appears in the print advertising for Sandpiper.
“All of the girls grew up in the business,” notes Hawkins. “The stores have always felt like home.”
Reynolds brought the fun, family and business to Marco Island in 1985, and then to Naples three years later. Today, Reynolds and Hawkins run the Marco Island and Naples stores with Dawn Elizabeth, while Perdue and Shauna Lee manage the Key Largo shop.
According to Reynolds, her family’s success rests squarely on the shoulders of her customers. “The customers we developed at the beginning we still have today. Our customers have been kind and loyal. We have been very lucky in that respect,” shesays.
A little help from Kathie Lee Gifford didn’t hurt either. About three years ago on her segment on “Today Show,” Gifford gushed about finding the Lisette L Pant-alon at Sandpiper’s Key Largo location. NBC expanded on that by linking its website with Sandpiper’s site, and the rest is retail history.
“The phone was ringing off the hook, and the web site exploded,” remembers Dawn Elizabeth. “We have sold at least one pair of those pants online everyday ever since.”
In celebration of their success and customers, the women of Sandpiper Clothiers are opening their doors to give back to their communities. Beginning March 1st, and extending for 40 days, Sandpiper Clothiers will be a drop location for donations for “Dress for Success,” an international not-for-profit organization that helps promote economic independence for women in need by providing them with professional attire, career development and other support services.
For Reynolds and her family, connecting their 40th anniversary to “Dress for Success” was a no-brainer. “‘Dress for Success’ is about women and fashion, and helping women feel good about themselves. We do the same thing in our stores everyday,” Dawn Elizabeth explains.
“We are giving back the way we know best — through fashion.”