If everything is bigger in Texas, then Austin is certainly living up to the tale …
Fashion’s golden couple, Sid and Ann Mashburn are humble — really humble. With lengthy resume’s touting collaborations with the industry Who’s Who’s, personifying the humble trait is not something that one thinks would be easy to embody. But for Sid and Ann, turning “Hollywood” is not scripted in their future, because the humble gene is naturally woven within their DNA.
On October 4, 2016, Fashion Group International of Dallas welcomed the modest power couple along with fans, admirers, fashion enthusiasts, and the like to their quaintly situated Knox District store. Fresh off the high from their fifth store opening in Los Angeles, the stylishly classic duo who dotes “more newness, more often”, dished on love, entrepreneurialism, innovation, and the heart and soul of their coveted Mashburn brand — and thus, ’twas the greatest retail story ever told.
“It’s quite competitive out there and retail is crazy,” Ann says. “But if you have a point of view and you stick to your point of view, then nobody can do what you do.” Ann’s better half, Sid, confidently adds, “If there’s one big secret that we have, it’s taking care of people.”
While not necessarily a secret anymore, it’s the genuine love for people and their interests that drives this successful brand. In an industry growing increasingly saturated, technological innovations and overexposure leave little room for success — yet the Mashburns have mastered the art of retail with a simple, consistent, and authentic approach to branding.
For the people and motivated by the people, the Mashburns have wooed a loyal following with Ann’s classically sophisticated tastes and Sid’s down-to-earth Southern stature. Soaking in a well of authenticity, it is glaringly obvious why this stylishly suited couple has the retail biz figured out — even amongst decline. So ditch the philosophical business books, forego the tricky lingo, and in a matter of just a few words, retail for the Mashburns boils down to one thing: keep it simple.
“We didn’t do a big study,” Ann admits when asked why she and her husband Sid opened their first location in Atlanta. “We just said ‘This feels right, let’s try it.'”
And woven throughout the discussion for the evening was a genuine thread of vulnerability, humbleness, and honesty, as both Sid and Ann expressed candidly that the road to entrepreneurialism for the pair was based more on intuition than business know-how and boardroom strategy.
Risking it all, defying all odds, and investing their own funds into their retail venture, Sid and Ann did it “The Mashburn Way” –creating an eclectic work space, quality clothing, and a high-spirited environment; all the while offering something for everyone, which is utterly impossible to do in a boutique retail environment.
“It’s like a fraternity where everybody gets to be in it,” Sid joked. “You just come on in, because we’re going to take care of you. We have multiple price points and from the very beginning we said ‘No demographic’ for what we’re doing. Our youngest customer in the men’s is 11 and the oldest is 87 so far. What’s cool about that is you’re saying ‘Yes’ to everybody.”
And it’s not just the come-on-in type of culture that makes The Mashburn Way successful; it’s the frat-meets-retail environment that has cracked the code to what many retailers have yet to figure out in today’s decline.
“Get the excitement back into the store. Stanley Marcus may have been one of the greatest ever, but they were always bringing something new to the party,” Sid said. “In our store we have music playing… [and] cokes and beers going. There’s something cool about that sort of magic.”
And that “magic” Sid referred to, is the introduction of The Third Place: the place you go to unwind, to relax, or to just be after work. For most, it would be the bar; for others, it may be the coffeehouse, their book club, or the 19th hole for most men; but for The Mashburns, they want it to be their store.
“We wanted it to be a place where you didn’t have to buy anything. We really tried to make an environment where people can come and hang out if they want to,” Ann said. “If someone wants to treat this as the third place, then come on in!” Sid added. “Cold coke, cold beer, some chat, vinyl music, African beats, pingpong, read a book, or [just] hang out.”
Call it plain magic or maybe being the life of the party, but these two fashion industry veterans have the branding game figured out.
While many scramble to truly identify their target customer or to thrive in a rapidly changing environment, the Mashburns let their shared love for style and each other, stake as the cornerstone of their business. “We didn’t go at [retail] scientifically. We started our business at 45 and we knew a lot about clothes, and we knew a lot about business already,” Ann confidently claimed.
It’s with this confidence that the Mashburns opened up several additional locations, including their new Los Angeles store with predictably more down the pipeline. When a curious Sid questioned the CEO of J. Crew Group Mickey Drexler on the state of retail and where the “white space” is to thrive, Drexler answered, “It’s wherever your heart is.”
And whether they knew or not, Sid and Ann Mashburn had already branded where their heart was, in every aspect of their business. And that concept alone, is doing retail The Mashburn Way.