After 25 years on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, countless women sent home with stylish new outfits, and many lifelong friendships made, Daisy Kimberly will close the doors of Alley Cat on Saturday, Jan. 31. She calls her upscale women’s clothing and shoe store a “destination boutique,” because so many of her customers make special trips, including many from off-Island, to shop at the 66 Main Street location.
Her secret for keeping a successful business going in a highly seasonal economy, through economic boom and bust, for a quarter of a century?
“Dogged determination, and denial,” Ms. Kimberly said this week as she prepared for her final few days open for business. While she won’t be retiring, she hasn’t settled on the next chapter of her life yet.
“Nobody can do anything forever. I have put, for 25 years, all of my creative energies, all of my thought, all of my efforts into this store. I’m kind of curious to see what might emerge from that.”
Ms. Kimberly said there was a collision of coincidences large and small that caused her to step back and evaluate the business climate.
“It has been a dodgy couple of years in terms of sales,” she said. “I think the Internet may have been a factor. I just found that when I thought about going back to New York and buying again, it was with a sigh of resignation, and when I thought, what if I just didn’t do it, I got really elated. A lot of possibilities emerged from that.”
She took other coincidences as a signal that it was time to close the shop. She rented a parking space from Beadniks on Church Street for 30 years, but when that business closed last spring, she lost her spot. Her building needed a new heat pump, and the installation behind the store took the space of a small courtyard where she and her employees took breaks. She made a mental list of the pluses and minuses of another year in business.
“What I won’t miss is a little bit longer than what I will miss,” she said.
Customers had an unusually close bond with the store and its owner. Ms. Kimberly said several longtime patrons came to the store in tears when they heard the news that she would close the doors for good.
“I have a really solid corps of really loyal customers,” she said. “I like to make it a cross between a personal dressing room and a clubhouse. One of my friends called it a combination of psychology and show biz. We’ve been therapists in here, we’ve been medical advisors at times. We’ve heard many super-personal stories from people. It’s pretty great.”
Many customers looked forward to the annual Alley Cat “yard sale” in March. She and her friends bring in some of their “gently used” clothing for resale, along with marked-down merchandise left over from the previous season. This year, she is moving the yard sale up to the final two days she is open, Friday, Jan. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 31.
“It’s usually a madhouse for two days in March,” she said. “But I won’t be here, so why not move it up?”