I will never forget my first customer at my Madison Avenue store in New York. The market had crashed and Lehman Brothers, where my husband had been working, had gone bankrupt. I was trying to adapt my business beyond the four- and five-figured custom red carpet maternity gowns I was making in Soho to a more expansive and attainable offering on the Upper East Side.
As I sat there in front of my empty cash box, with an iced coffee, waiting for the phone to ring, or the door to open in the store I had hand painted that weekend, my first customer finally came in! I still can’t believe she didn’t run in the opposite direction when I accosted her with mocktails, jelly beans, cupcakes and probably way too much information on the clothes I was making in the garment district or the birthing classes I’d be offering later that day. My eyes were wild, my caffeinated system was ranting! Come to think about it I was talking so fast and she was chomping so hard on so many jelly beans I had forced upon her that I am not sure if she really heard anything I had said.
The fact that she actually purchased something was a miracle as I was a dithering wreck. As she handed me her chosen garment and my fingers nervously typed on the credit card machine that accompanied that cash box (thank goodness she hadn’t given me cash as I am sure I didn’t know to have the correct change back then!) I was terrified something would make her change her mind. When the sale went through I will never forget the awkward hug I gave her just to make her whole experience that bit more strange, a really weird exclamation on the end of her experience. I know I held on just a tad too long but the good news is I held back the tears….wow, would that have been weird!
I still wonder what that marvelous lady told her friends about the crazy maternity lady she had met — or if indeed she did tell her friends. I also wonder if she loved that Henley as much as I loved selling it to her. Perhaps that is why we still have the very same Henley style hanging in my stores: I just can’t seem to let it go!
(Oh, and just in case you were wondering, they keep me far away from the cash box and credit card machine these days. I love to be in the stores and sell but actually ringing up the sales still makes me emotional.)