Au Rendez-Vous de la Mode back in business in Sutton
By Manfried Helmuth Starhemberg
About two month ago Sutton went into shock: The venerable local clothing store "Au Rendez-Vous de la Mode" had mannequins standing on the sidewalk and being loaded into moving trucks, racks and packages followed and the local populace which has shopped there for almost exactly 50 years was perplexed. Where they closing? Had they sold the place? No, the next day a reassuring sign went up: "Closed for renovations". Old Suttonites, many of them having been outfitted at the store for their first day at school, their first date or the prom, were relieved.
As Queen Victoria once stated: "Every 50 years or so, one must reexamine one's estates". Owner Alain Camille,(60), whose mother founded the store in 1961 at a site now occupied by Le Cafetier across the street, and who had moved to the present location in 1964, would have approved. The place needed a renovation and it got it. Insulation,long needed to combat the rising heating bills was added as were double paned windows, all new lighting, paint and interieur decor. When I visited, there was still a very faint odor of the new paint to be detected but the place looks completely different now, There are new displays, new hardware to hang up and show off the clothes which come from 33 different companies, from Calvin Kline to Columbia, Woolrich and Killtec or Nova Scotia's Stanfield to a vast line of shoes from the Merrell line among others.
The building which houses the store is among the oldest surviving in town. For many years the curent location was split into two enterprises, a hardware store and a barber shop until Mme Yvette Boutin Camille started her fashion emporium. Alain and his brother Michel who retired after the current restoration, have owned the store since 2002 after purchasing it from their mother.
Outside of hundreds of dresses, blouses, sweaters, jackets, jeans and any other imaginable ladies apparel, there are a myriad of handbags and accessories, socks, belts and every other item imaginable to entice the shoppers which are a mix of locals and tourists.
"Sutton has changed so much over the last ten years that I could not possibly tell anymore who are the local residents or visitors" admits Alain. "I used to know most of the people in town but so many have moved out, new faces have moved in, it is hard to keep track of the clientele anymore".
Alain goes to various trade shows every year. "I have to order next year's stuff in August in order to have my summer collection for the next year", states Alain. Manufacturers want to plan ahead and so do us merchants in order to guarantee an even flow of incoming product.
"Is it hard to track inventory ?", I asked, "It is all in my head. I do not use a computer for inventory control. I know exactly what I have, what needs to be stocked, what to order and where to cut down on an order because a line might not sell as well as I had imagined".
Competition? "Yes, there are the big stores in Cowansville and Granby but I have a loyal local clientele and business has always been steady. As long as we can provide friendly service, a great variety of products at prices people can afford, I do not worry too much about what anyone else is doing. If you want a brand name quality product, you get it here and our prices are well in line with anything else out there. But you have the convenience to park in front of my store right here in downtown Sutton and you know where to come to if there is a problem with a product".
As much as I had enjoyed seeing the mannequins standing on the sidewalk on a snowy day two months ago, it is nice to see them back inside in their natural surroundings being tended to by a charming man and his affable staff.