By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND—The word is out: Tattersall’s Clothing & Accessories, 96 Merchants Row, will close its doors in mid-January after 21 years in its current location. Owner Christine Tattersall told the Mountain Times that she has tried to promote the sale of the business but has gotten no nibbles.
“We always tried to be ‘Fun, Funky, Funktional’ and tried to offer interesting things you wouldn’t find elsewhere,” Tattersall said.
When Tattersall’s opened in 1995, the shop offered “off-price” merchandise—overstock or discontinued inventory from brands such as L.L. Bean, Land’s End and other catalog brands. Later the shop offered some Canadian brands, including Tribal pants and White Sierra outdoor clothing. More recently the shop has focused on Fiore separates and travel wear, Wild Thing Wild Woman batik separates, Earth Creations organic cotton tees, and other natural fibers. More accessories were added, including Takobia earrings.
The styles were distinctive and appealed to shoppers looking for natural fabrics and hippie-chic or relaxed professional designs with an ethnic flavor. Tattersall said she chose Rutland because of its accessibility from the Route 4 corridor.
She began reducing her off-price inventory in favor of regular prices in response to competition from the internet, she said. That competition made the obstacles loom larger: rent, the shortage of downtown parking, lack of operating capital, and 12-hour days running the business.
“Times have changed,” she observed. When Tattersall’s opened, there were “a lot more people” downtown, and while no one had smartphones then, there were “significantly more well-paying corporations in this town,” she observed. These days, she said, “They don’t come downtown unless there’s another reason to do so.”
She noted that when Sweet Tomatoes (formerly Three Tomatoes) in the Asa Bloomer Building closed, “that was the beginning of the end—that was my foot traffic.” Downtown’s premier large dining establishment gave her shop good exposure, but “There’s nobody on the street anymore,” she said.
While Tattersall said she admires “what’s going on in town now, trying to attract young professionals,” she admitted that she doesn’t have the social-media “savvy” to court that customer base, which is trend-conscious and has the whole world to choose from, via apps and the internet.
“You’ve got to be in people’s faces much more,” she explained. “I prefer to work with people face-to-face,” and that market is dwindling, she added. Her regulars are getting older or moving away or spending less money, she said.
As a veteran of downtown who has seen Rutland change and grow, she said today Rutland needs to attract professionals who will become part of the community. That demographic is the kind she could see taking over Tattersall’s—a professional couple looking for a lucrative second income. “The potential is there,” she said.
As for the future of downtown, Tattersall said she believes that it lies in niche retail businesses like Vermont Truffle, Slightly Off Center, Frogs and Lilypads, and Pure Original. She would also like to see the return of stores offering everyday items to walk-in customers: a shoe store, a kitchen store, a true hardware store, a camera and electronics store. She expressed the hope that Rutland’s growth will not result in the city’s losing its every day relevance.
What will she miss about Rutland? “The people”—the daily interactions with her customers, other shopkeepers, the downtown workers, she said.
Even after the store closes in January, Tattersall won’t be a stranger to Rutland. While she makes her home in Grafton, Vt., and is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, she will continue to take an interest in the fortunes and wellbeing of the community.