HARTVILLE When Barb Wise opened her Hartville consignment shop, Best Bib and Tucker, 20 years ago, it was founded on the philosophy that a person can have a wardrobe full of pieces they love without buying everything new.
Her daughter, Megan Wise, was in high school when the shop opened on Dec. 1, 1999. Megan came to work at the shop fulltime six years ago and handles the marketing of the shop. As Barb and her daughter prepare a yearlong celebration of their 20th anniversary, they have been reflecting on how running their small business has changed in the last two decades.
“While tastes in clothing changes over the years, quality clothing stays the same,” Megan said. “We have always focused on quality clothing in the store. Quality clothing lasts longer, wears better and looks better. We do offer the trends too and right now the 90s styles are trending.”
Megan added that their product lines have expanded. She said five years ago, they were selling children’s clothing and today its more adult women clothing.
“We’ve expanded our handmade items in the past few years. There are now about a dozen people making items. Many of the artisans upcycle items such as wool, old records and other items.”
Other changes include:
• Technology: When the store opened, cell phones and Google was in its infancy. Inventory management and how they accept payment have changed. Plus, social media has added to their daily tasks.
“My favorite technology change is in photography,” said Megan. “We have been looking at photos from when we opened, and they are few and far between. In 1999, we used photography for major events and parties and had to get the film developed. Now, I snap photos daily and shoot a weekly style session live video. The store has always felt like a community but today’s combination of digital photography and social media means we can connect outside of our four walls more often,” Megan said.
• Consumer changes: Megan said they have always put an emphasis on reusing what they can. A look around the shop shows it’s not just the clothing for sale that is getting a second life. Customers will spot industrial pumps turned into clothing racks, a garden sprinkler used to display necklaces, vintage wash tubs turned into a table and a shutter used to display sunglasses.
• Neighbors: Megan said, “While we have witnessed many shops come and go, we don’t have to look far to find others that have challenged the odds. From these longstanding Hartville businesses we have learned that adapting and being ahead of change is vital to running a small business. We also find ourselves inspired by new businesses, especially their energy and fresh perspective. From them we are reminded to look at our shop through the eyes of a first-time visitor.”
• Location: The shop’s original location was a two-room space on South Prospect Avenue. Now, it is located in an approximately 2,000 square foot off space in the renovated Schumacher Lumber mill in Hartville’s historic downtown area.
“When we decided to expand, we looked everywhere including Kent, North Canton and other places and we kept coming back to Hartville. There is a block of stores near us and we help each other out. Hartville’s small businesses are family-owned or individually owned, and we give and get a lot of community support,” Megan said.
Even after all this time both Wise women say they are excited to unlock the doors every day.
“We set out to provide a place for people to take their closet cleanouts and shop for fun clothes but are blown away by the connections we have made. We’ve been dressing our community for celebrations, job interviews, and funerals, for a great workout, through their pregnancies and for prom. We are a gathering place for girls day out and love seeing their kiddos in our playroom and sharing photos across the counter. What an honor the last twenty years have been,” Megan said.
She added they are serving generations of customers after 20 years. Girls that used to come in with their mothers are now driving themselves to shop at the store. Megan said they are coming into what she and her mother call the sparkle season with all of the high school dances coming up.
What’s the future look like? The immediate future is to offer a yearlong celebration including giving one of their shoppers free shopping for a year. They will be celebrating Valentine’s Day and President’s Day with a make and take and a hot chocolate bar. In March, they will offer a seed planting class. They are planning a special event each month. Visit their website at www.shopbestbibandtucker.com to follow along.