SOL: Store of Lingerie owner Jeanie Peterson talks fifteen years of underwear and atmosphere
For Jeanie Peterson and Cindy Johnson, opening SOL: Store of Lingerie was the natural combination of one sister's business savvy and the other's long-running experience in the lingerie business. And this Wednesday, August 29, the internationally-recognized Cherry Creek North boutique will celebrate fifteen years in the business with a party for its customers. In advance of the bash, Westword spoke with co-owner Jeanie Peterson about bras, the Oprah effect and how SOL has stayed successful over the last decade and a half.
Zorn Photography SOL models.
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Westword: Why did you open SOL: Store of Lingerie?
SOL owners Jeanie Peterson and Cindy Johnson.
Jeanie Peterson: My sister, Cindy, and I opened it together. Cindy has an unbelievable passion for lingerie -- she just always has. That was the impetus for it, her passion. When we were little, our grandma always bought us undies for Christmas; we have two older sisters, and they always got the pretty, lacy ones. Cindy got the ones with bumblebees on them that were a bit big. (Laughs.) So when she was old enough and realized that she could buy panties on her own -- and not only panties, but pretty, lacy ones that fit and had matching bras -- it was like the angels sang for her.
Her passion has driven this for so long; she started working at a lingerie store in high school, she went to CSU for fashion merchandising and apparel. Between the two of us, we would brainstorm and talk about opening a store often. She manages and oversees the creative side of the company, and I oversee the business side. It's a good yin and yang.
I'm a liberal arts girl -- but tons of people had told me, you should go into business. I knew this was something Cindy and I were pursuing, and once we really got into it, I felt like earned my MBA on the job.
What can a new customer expect if they have never walked into SOL before? What is different about you, versus, say, Victoria's Secret?
It is such a positive experience: We have a fantastic group of (bra) fitters that Cindy has personally trained. She is still very active on the floor and selling arena, which is fairly unique for a store of our size and age. Often, the owners disappear to the stockroom or office, so Cindy prides herself on staying connected with our customers.
When a customer walks in, she is greeted by a SOL Girl -- we're all called SOL Girls -- and gives her an explanation about what the store is. So many of our customers come in on a recommendation from someone else, so we are very aware that they are coming in and seeking that very personal experience.
After they've had time to browse, they are taken into a fitting room. One of our fitters is there to listen, educate and talk to them about how each woman and each bra is unique. The store itself is designed to make women and men feel at ease and feel comfortable. It is a beautiful Italian garden-type of feel; it's calm, there's a fountain. It's just a different experience than a place where you may feel overwhelmed by thousands of bras being presented to you.
We have all of the bras displayed on art boards -- it is almost as though you're looking at art. You're not having to be overwhelmed by things around you.
One of the free services we provide is bra wardrobing. We have many customers that bring in all of their bras -- whether they have been purchased from us or not -- and we talk through with them what they are for, if they fit, what they can wear them under. We help them realize what their wardrobe really requires. If she's a mom who's picking up her kids from school every day and running around, she may want five of the same bra because her wardrobe doesn't change that much in a week. But someone else might have a different need for her wardrobe -- that's where the education comes in from our fitter in the fitting room.