In 1984, Suzie Reynolds pursued her dream of opening a children’s clothing store in the Hamptons, but she anticipated running the business for only about five to 10 years.
Fast forward just over three decades, and Aunt Suzie’s Clothes for Kids is still going strong—that is, until it closes for good after the holiday season.
Ms. Reynolds has decided that it is time for retirement after 31 years of business, citing a soon-to-expire lease she does not wish to renew, and the desire to join her husband, Roger, in living the life of a retiree.
The clothing store owner said that while she looks forward to days of tranquility and relaxation during her time off, the idea of closing the store is bittersweet.
“We’re going to miss our wonderful customers. There’s been so many,” she said on Monday while sitting in an office at the back of the shop, located on Main Street in Southampton Village. “That’s what I’m sad about.
“I had tried to put the business on the market for the last year and a half, and I thought, ‘Somebody, after 31 years, might want it,’ but nobody wanted it,” she continued. “They wanted the space, but they didn’t want to do this.”
A former bookkeeper—and, before that, a flight attendant—Ms. Reynolds first opened Aunt Suzie’s Clothes for Kids in November 1984 in Water Mill Square on Montauk Highway in Water Mill. The shop, selling clothing for newborns and boys and girls up to size 14, was, at the time, located in a small, 400-square-foot storefront. “I thought there was a need for children’s clothes at reasonable prices out here,” Ms. Reynolds explained. “I had never done anything like that before.”
The business operated there for almost 10 years before moving to Southampton Village, Ms. Reynolds’s hometown. In the village, Aunt Suzie’s had quite a few locations: it first moved to a space on Windmill Lane, where La Carezza Salon now stands, and then to Hampton Road in the former mini-mall building that now houses Citarella.
Finally, about six years ago, the store was relocated to 59 Main Street in the heart of the village business district, which Ms. Reynolds said had been her vision all along.
“I always wanted Main Street, but I could never afford the rents,” she admitted. “That was my dream from the beginning. Once we did [open on Main Street], the space was fabulous.”
Ms. Reynolds’s runs the store with help from her daughter, Wendy, and long-time friend Joanne Black, who commutes to the village each day from Holbrook.
Ms. Black—both Reynolds ladies described her as a customer favorite—said that while she will miss interacting with regular patrons, who include Billy Joel, Brooke Shields, Betty White and Susan Lucci, she will miss working with Ms. Reynolds the most.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Suzie,” Ms. Black said. “Suzie’s always run it as a family business, and we think of our clientele as family. These babies are wonderful. The laughs and the giggles are the best in the world.”
The younger Ms. Reynolds commended her mother for building a successful business with very little experience, describing her as a role model for other women.
“Anyone who’s been in the business, been in retail, knows the hardships, that it’s 100 percent of your life. My mother has given it 100 percent of her life for 31 years and lasted that long … in a resort community. There’s got to be something to be said for that,” she said. “I’m very proud of my mom and the business that she’s run.”
Ms. Reynolds said that aside from building close bonds with her customers—“Within the past few years, we’ve been clothing the kids of the kids that we clothed in the beginning,” she said—her favorite part about the job has been choosing the clothing to sell.
“Buying for a children’s store is so much fun. But it’s so hard because there are so many brands out there, so many cute things, that you just have to hold back,” she said with a laugh. “But I tried over the years to be traditional, not wild and crazy. And that’s what everybody likes. I tried to carry all the traditional brands, stuff that my kids wore when they were little, even. The same little wool coats and hats, the same smock dresses, and things like that.”
Racks and racks of those smock dresses, coats and hats, along with petite shirts and pants, still filled the store on Monday, all marked down for a special retirement sale, which began two weeks ago. As the weeks go by, prices will go down even more, and Ms. Reynolds expects “some good bargains around Christmas.” The store will remain open through the holiday, and all clothes that aren’t sold by the time Aunt Suzie’s closes in January will most likely be donated, the owner said.
Ms. Reynolds assured, though, that she will continue producing and selling her popular line of onesies and T-shirts for kids, which come in an array of colors and are screen-printed with a crib paired with the phrase, “My other crib is in the Hamptons.”
And, in the meantime, when customers come in to shop, they will also be able to register to win prizes such as a 40-inch television, a boy’s bicycle, an iPad, an iPod and a GoPro camera—Ms. Reynolds’s way of thanking them for all their years of business, loyalty and friendship.
“I just would love to thank everybody for patronizing us and coming in all these years, and for being so great,” she said. I was apprehensive in the beginning, like, ‘Oh, am I going to be able to do this?’ But, I did my research, and here I am. I think everybody in the village is going to miss us.”