The New Daniels Does Its Shopping

July 11, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP — Buying merchandise for a new and distinctive apparel shop isn't as simple as some might believe.

Just call a supplier and then unload the trucks? Not hardly. In reality, it's a delicate and confidential mix of science and art, where too much of one can cancel out the other.

There is a tried and true method that Daniel's is using to stock its shelves and fill its racks for its September opening in the Terrazzo shopping center on East Paris Avenue. But market instinct and a keen sense for fashion are the intangibles that the shop's owners, the Hurwitz family, are betting will play as strong a role in the store's performance as its formula will.

Dan Hurwitz, president of Daniel's, recently selected a pair of managers that he believes will guide the new business to success. He chose Kathe Curtis to manage the store and buy the women's apparel, and Annie Konieczny to purchase the men's clothing and direct that department.

"They will set the tone for the store," said Hurwitz, "from the designer collections that we carry, to the displays that will showcase our unique and contemporary fashions."

Hurwitz said he picked Curtis and Konieczny for their vision, energy and experience — much of which has been in West Michigan.

"They know our customer base intimately and will be superb in selecting the clothing and accessories that will set Daniel's apart as the fashion destination in West Michigan," he said. "Under their leadership, the store will set new standards for customer satisfaction."

Curtis has managed women's sportswear at Rogers Department Store, also owned by the Hurwitz family, for the past two years. Before coming to Rogers, she tenured at Leigh's and Ann Taylor. Konieczny co-founded A.K. Rikk's Menswear and for 14 years directed the upscale men's shop. She has also worked for Mays of Michigan and Fitzgerald Menswear.

Once the general theme for Daniel's was selected, taking a lifestyle approach to fashion, only then could the detailed work begin. This is where science meets art.

For the women's collection, that meant buying a certain percentage of eveningwear, casual clothes and suits.

"We really do break it down with a very detailed plan," said Curtis, who likened her job to putting together pieces of a giant puzzle. "So, yes, we do go into market with a very detailed plan, percentages and all that. Then it becomes taking those numbers and choosing the looks that we find the most exciting."

But what gave Curtis an advantage is she was familiar with what West Michigan women wear and, equally as important, what they won't wear.

"I had all the customers in mind. I had different age groups in mind, and I had different lifestyles in mind," she said.

Curtis said she didn't think Daniel's would be all things to all people, but she did think the shop would serve a diverse clientele. But for women, she felt car-pool moms would be a key group. She said these women desire an individual look that distinguishes them from the crowd. So the right casual clothes, suits and separates are essential to them.

"This customer doesn't want to be dictated to and she wants to project her personality in what she wears. So I think it's really important to give them lots and lots of choices, and, hopefully, get the mix just right for everyone regardless of lifestyle and age," said Curtis.

Konieczny said she also uses percentages when buying men's apparel but her mixes are different — a tad more casual than the women's line. She added that men haven't given up on suits, ties and shiny shoes, but the trend for males here is toward less formal attire.

"But the philosophy is the same. We look at who we want our customer to be. We obviously look at how many square feet we're going to have in the store and what we're going to dedicate that space to, and then we look at the things that we know are going to work," she said.

It might be fair to write that Konieczny considers herself as much an editor of the men's clothing selection as a buyer. She said she has spent as much time narrowing down, or editing out, men's clothing for Daniel's as she has invested in buying labels for the store.

"There are a bazillion lines out there and basically our job is to edit," she said.

Konieczny said men will find an elegant mix of sartorial business clothing, evening attire and casual wear. She said her goal for Daniel's is to meet all their clothing needs under one roof, and still be as hip as Barney's, as sophisticated as Mario's in Seattle, and as classic as Mitchell's in Connecticut.

"We are dressing people for their lifestyle, which means I'm not just going to sell them a suit," she said. "I can sell them jeans to wear to wash the car, and something to wear to brunch on Sunday."

As for the shopping difference between genders, Curtis said women are more discerning than men, while Konieczny said men are more loyal than women.

Daniel's will serve as the anchor store for Terrazzo, also being built by the Hurwitzes, and the shop is on schedule to open shortly after Labor Day. The 15,000-square-foot store will offer a slew of designer collections, some of which are not currently available in the area, along with accessories and cosmetics.

But Curtis pointed out that Daniel's will be about more than designer names, as aura and customer service will share top billing. She said materials for Daniel's were selected for their old-world look of comfort and that seating areas were placed throughout the shop for that reason.

"We want it to be a real friendly place to come," said Curtis. "We want people to come there because the atmosphere is not only exciting, which it most certainly will be, but we want them to come and meet their friends there." 

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