When Smaller is Better


web Biz life'style pic

By Marissa Maier

Like a purveyor at a farmers market who offers expert produce advice, Debbie Rudoy provides the same personal touch at her contemporary clothing store life’style.

“Step into life’style and you’re greeted by your name and style,” Rudoy promises on her recently launched website. “We remember what you love and what looks great on you.”

Unlike her corporate counterparts, Rudoy’s approach to selling garments is more gourmet menu than vending machine. She carefully selects the merchandise. She has been known to wade through dozens of jeans to find the correct style and fit for a particular customer. And, perhaps most importantly, Rudoy and her team of trained staff are truthful with customers.

“We have a lot of repeat customers. One customer said we were better than having a best friend. ‘You tell me what I should and shouldn’t buy,'” Rudoy recounted in an interview. “We offer an honest opinion and that builds loyalty and trust.”

So when Rudoy decided to begin virtually connecting with her customers, she naturally wanted to maintain the same intimate relationships with her client base.

“It is about reaching out and being more hands on with people,” Rudoy explained. “It’s an added layer of customer service.”

The life’style website, which was launched over the summer, includes a fashion blog, alerting customers to new merchandise. While Rudoy effusively writes about everything from cashmere sweaters to leather espadrilles, she explains why an item is both special and a smart purchase.

“I traveled all the way to Milan to be sure we had [these boots] in our store for the fall season … They are handcrafted from washed Italian leather, very stylish … and super comfortable,” Rudoy wrote of Fiorentini + Baker footwear in a post from August. “These hard-to-find boots will last years.”

When Rudoy runs a promotion or sale, she will often send out an email blast and she has created a Facebook page and Twitter account for life’style.

Rudoy hopes her unique fashion perspective — whether presented face-to-face or online — will continue to give her an advantage over nearby brand name clothing stores.

As a small business owner since 2002, Rudoy emphasizes the importance of local enterprises. After a busy career in the fashion industry, Rudoy permanently relocated to Sag Harbor in 2001 and a year later started a Pilates studio. She was soon selling a collection of organic and sustainably produced clothing.

“Fashion was always my first love. I love dressing people to make them look and feel good,” Rudoy said.

Over time she noticed East Hampton town was dominated by corporate businesses. She also found it difficult to find all the merchandise she wanted in one place.

“Between that and all of a sudden I was dressing my clients, [the store] was a natural evolution but it wasn’t super premeditated,” Rudoy recalled of opening life’style in 2007.

In addition to the online expansion, Rudoy plans to unveil a renovation this spring, which will include a dedicated accessories and footwear area as well as a small men’s section. Rudoy carefully noted that instead of branching out into multiple locations, she wants to focus on serving her local clientele and drumming up business in Sag Harbor.

Of her belief in supporting local operations, Rudoy remarked, “Those who live here full time need to embrace the business and the farmer … [In the same way] everyone is eating locally, it should apply to the rest of what we do.”

For more information on life’style, or to sign up for their email list, please visit http://www.shopatlifestyle.com/index.php or call 725-1667.