When Anda Weyher left a job at Ralph Lauren in New York City and moved to Fairfield County, she found a void in the area's marketplace.
She and her friend, Leslie Littlejohn, had "pretty extensive fashion backgrounds from working in New York."
"When we moved to Fairfield County, got married, had kids, we really didn't find the type of clothing in the area that we wanted for our kids, things that we had seen or bought in New York," Weyher said. "We were both kind of hip-fashion, savvy young mothers and we wanted to bring the same kind of city aesthetic out to New Canaan."
So 24 years ago, the two women opened Littlejohn's children's clothing store on South Avenue to offer more modern choices in children's outfits. "It worked beautifully for many, many years," she said.
About nine years after that, they moved the business to 120 Elm St., where it grew in popularity. In recent years, however, business was no longer thriving, and the store is about to close.
Weyher, whose business partner retired 10 years ago, is closing Littlejohn's on Thursday, Aug. 14, after a series of factors that made the store's existence "impossible." She said she made the decision early in the spring, when she "was presented with an unattainable rent increase."
"It was honestly too much of an increase," Weyher said. "It would be very difficult, really, or impossible to continue."
Though she wouldn't be specific, a listing for the space on William Raveis Real Estate's website states the lease is $9,000 a month.
On top of the rent, Weyher has also faced declining sales and new competition.
"The clientele diminished in size and the piece of the pie became increasingly smaller," she said. "You couple that with a rent increase, the arrival of additional children's clothing stores and the ever-looming changes (brought by) the Internet -- that combination created the perfect storm."
Nearby stores that sell children's clothing include Vineyard Vines, J. Crew's Crewcuts and Ralph Lauren Children's Store, which is across the street from Littlejohn's.
Until a few years ago, Weyher said, the rent and taxes were lower and the merchandise cost less. She added that many parents now buy most of their children's clothes online.
Weyher, a Wilton resident, now will take some six or nine months off before deciding on her next career move. She said it is possible that she might open a different retail business.
She said, "It's time to turn the page and start a new chapter." In fact, Weyher added, "because I've been in the business for a long period of time, it's time to start a new book." Read Full Article
Weyher will miss "the unique feel" of downtown New Canaan, she said, which is one of the reasons why she did not consider moving the business to a different site.
"I love my location in New Canaan," she said. "I'm sad to close the business. I had a wonderful run in New Canaan. I had a wonderful clientele."
She noted, however, that this was "a wise business decision." She said she's afraid "what may happen to New Canaan is the same thing that has happened to Westport," where she said most locally owned shops have left, to be replaced by chains.
"That seems to be the trend. The independents are being phased out for (corporate-owned) stores, which is a pity because they take the uniqueness out of the downtown of New Canaan," Weyher said.
The lease for Littlejohn's expired Aug. 7, but the landlord gave Weyher an extra week to stay open. A liquidation sale is underway until then.
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