|Jenn Pattillo and Christine Tattersall|
[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 9/23/10]
Doing business in Rutland takes dedication, creativity and determination. At times, it may not be easy. It may be downright discouraging. Indeed, these days, running a small business anywhere can be mighty daunting. But for those who succeed, the endeavor is perpetually rewarding.
Fifteen years ago, Christine Tattersall arrived in Vermont with a plan to open a clothing store. At that time, she was unsure where she’d end up – Bennington, Brattleboro and Middlebury among others were all in the running.
After doing her homework , touring the region researching trade areas and demographics, she settled on 96 Merchants Row in downtown Rutland. This month Tattersall’s is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
At the time, T.J. Maxx was about to open in the Rutland Plaza. Tattersall saw this as an opportunity to capitalize on the discount retailer’s presence by opening a store that would both complement T.J.’s while offering something slightly different – what would eventually evolve into Tattersall’s distinct brand of “fun, funky and funktional” clothing.
With more than 30 years of retail experience, Tattersall was well prepared to open up her own shop. She previously had worked in sporting goods, a fact that is reflected in her store’s inventory, which offers a variety of clothes geared toward the athletic and active.
These styles are balanced by a wide selection of warm sweaters, colorful scarves and eye-catching accessories like bright wool mittens and caps, and wallets made from recycled materials.
Despite the name on the window, Tattersall’s is not a one-woman show. Since 1996, Rutland area-native Jenn Pattillo has been an integral part of the store’s success.
“I saw what the store was doing and wanted to get involved,” Pattillo said. “I kept walking in and asking Christine for a job.”
Eventually, Tattersall hired her, beginning a relationship that has endured ever since.
When asked about their dynamic, both women laugh and demur from explicitly attempting to explain it.
Suffice to say, it works.
“Jenn is the face of the business,” Tattersall said. “She’s the local.”
Officially, Pattillo is the store manager and buyer, a role Tattersall is pleased to have her play.
“Jenn knows the product and the market,” she said.
Creatively, Pattillo’s fingerprints are all over Tattersall’s.
“When you enter the store, you’ve entered my world,” she said.
This world includes the store’s unique and popular window displays. These colorful and well-planned displays change frequently and never fail to snag the attention of passersby.
“I like to come up with something different than what is ‘normal’ around here,” Pattillo said.
Another standout is the store’s distinct stick-figure mannequins. Faceless and shapeless, the forms display the clothes without the archetypal look and cultural baggage of traditional mannequins.
“We like to tweak people’s imaginations,” Pattillo says.
While Pattillo may be the face, she quickly adds that Christine is a force behind the scenes, both in the store and the community.
Indeed, in the downtown, Tattersall’s is not an island. Both Tattersall and Pattillo are actively involved, serving on a number of boards and committees, including the Downtown Rutland Partnership and the Creative Economy.
“We’re here because we want to be,” Pattillo says. “We want a vibrant downtown.”
For them, the store is more than retail; it’s a place where people connect and meet.
“People will run into each other here and spend an hour talking,” Tattersall said, adding that she is happy to let them linger and catch up as long as they want.
Being engaged and socially conscious is woven into the fabric of their business, from a commitment to community to the clothes on the racks.
“It’s about quality,” Pattillo said. “And that starts at the beginning with respecting the environment.”
In the store, Tattersall and Pattillo wear that mission on their sleeve. Literally.
Pattillo buys from manufacturers who use natural, organic and/or recycled fibers. Working with such manufacturers who tend to operate on a smaller, more sustainable scale means that Pattillo gets to know them personally. And she is constantly seeking out more companies that share her and Tattersall’s mission.
While customers may not be immediately dialed in to the store’s ethic, they often appreciate it when they learn about it.
Pattillo notes that that appreciation is starting to grow as both manufactures and consumers realize the financial, environmental and human impact our supply chain has on other parts of the world.
Looking back on their 15 years, Tattersall and Pattillo are satisfied with the niche they have carved out for themselves in the downtown.
At the end of the day, it’s still about determination both for their business and for the success of the rest of downtown Rutland.
“It’s about keeping a positive message out there,” Tattersall said, adding her conviction that downtown can become a vibrant community the she, Pattillo and so many others are working toward.