‘Deals & Steals’ takes its bargains onto Main Street in Northampton
NORTHAMPTON — Ivy Garcia likes to play a game to challenge herself and her customers: Can you put an entire outfit together for $50 or less? Based on her experience managing two stores that sell discounted clothes and shoes, Garcia thinks so.
Garcia, a Northampton native, manages Deals & Steals on Pleasant Street, and now a new branch of the store, Deals on Main, which opened Feb. 1.
“A lot of our very good inventory was getting lost,” Garcia said. “We didn’t have the room to display it well. Now, we can highlight it in a boutique-quality store.”
Three Deals & Steals stores in Northampton make up a brand that has been expanding since its founding in Easthampton in 1998. Owner Steve Weber moved the store to Northampton after observing that most of his customers traveled from the city.
Now in Florida, where he now spends his winters, Weber said in a telephone interview he has been waiting 10 years to find space for a store on Main Street in order to fill a niche downtown and to pick up new costumers.
Asked how he can maintain three stores so close to each other in today’s economy, Weber said everyone likes a good deal. “We have to be pretty sharp, but everyone wants a deal. People are looking for the best price,” he said.
Garcia said that Weber was being modest. She believes the success of Deals and Steals has to do with Weber’s relationship to the community, noting his clothing donations to local organizations and sponsorships of sports teams.
“We have thank-you notes everywhere. A lot of his success has to do with that — not just taking, but giving back,” she said.
Garcia, who has worked at Deals & Steals stores for 14 years, said Deals on Main still carries merchandise discounted 50 to 70 percent, like the store on Pleasant Street, but focuses on trendier items. Garcia said 60 percent of the store is devoted to shoes, while the rest is clothing and accessories not carried on Pleasant Street.
Garcia said new shipments arrive every day. The stores are able to carry merchandise at a discount because items are purchased in bulk from overstock and closeouts. They will often order 300 to 800 pairs of the same shoes, she said.
In addition to providing a bit more display space for all those shipments, Garcia hopes the new store will expand the company’s clientele. She said being on Main Street increases visibility to newcomers and tourists. She said she has been surprised by a surge in local teenage girls who come to Deals on Main but never shopped much on Pleasant Street.
Stephanie Fleury, an assistant manager for the clothing stores, believes she understands why they would be drawn to the new store. “They like the boutique style, they like to be pampered more one-on-one, the other store can get crowded,” she said.
Garcia said the store plans to expand its online presence so people who visit from far away can later shop from their computers. Now, the store does not sell online.
She is also starting to plan a grand opening for Deals on Main later this spring. She and Fleury said it has been difficult to get the store launched in bad winter weather.
“It started off slow without a grand opening,” Fleury said, “but it has been getting better as the weather has turned around, especially on the weekends.”
Garcia said business can be difficult on Main Street because of the changes that Northampton has gone through during her lifetime. She said she remembers many more locals spending their time walking downtown when she was a teenager.
Garcia believes business will continue to pick up as the weather gets better. She also believes that having two clothing stores in close proximity is an advantage. “Most of the employees work in both stores, and that is on purpose. Everyone is familiar with both and we send costumers back and forth,” she said. With the expansion, five new employees were hired to work at the stores. One person works exclusively at Deals on Main.
Garcia said it helps to have a third store connected to the two clothing shops — the Deals and Steals on Pearl Street that sells discounted natural and organic foods.