If your career hits the doldrums, you have two options: resign yourself to gloomy drudgery, or change something.
Earlier this year, Lavon Jackson changed something: He founded with his wife, Carol, a clothing boutique called Style & Swag.
Jackson tended bar at the Marriot Hotel near Newark Liberty International Airport for 15 years before the odd hours wore him out. After a few more years as the sales manager of a gym, he decided he was through agonizing over sales goals that padded someone else’s bottom line.
Seeking to apply his skills to a business whose profits he could keep, he and Carol founded Style & Swag – their clothing boutique in Franklin Township’s Somerset section. The store’s selection runs from quirky to genteel, and its founders strive to offer the kind of personalized service they say is absent from big-box and department stores.
Carol, who admits to loving fashion and shopping, counts creative direction among her duties at the store: “I’m the style and [Lavon]’s the swag,” she said. Her taste guides her toward designers who are distinct if not well known. “If it looks nice, if it’s something unique, I love it,” she said, “I don’t care if it was made by the guy next door or someone who’s been in fashion for 50 years.”
Style & Swag welcomes all customers, but it seems geared toward those seeking clothing to cherish rather than those satisfied by a fancy label. “There’s nothing like purchasing something at a great price and feeling like you’ve gotten the best find in the world,” Carol said. She cited instances like these as the most rewarding part of co-owing the store.
Lavon said that although the store’s selection is small, its pieces are unique and well appointed. “Everyone has that favorite sweater,” he said, “We want what the customer purchases here to be his favorite.”
If a sense of style and a dedication to customer service were sufficient to build a popular retail store, Style & Swag would already be a smashing success.
As the Jacksons have found, though, attracting customers is a challenge. Carol said the store’s mantra – that classy is cool – has so far failed to resonate with many younger potential customers. Lavon said that like many new businesses, Style & Swag lacks the advertising budget for television commercials that could broadcast the store’s existence to a wide audience.
In the absence of a slick marketing campaign, the Jacksons are hoping to build a word-of-mouth network that centers on personalized service. “Customers remember the friendliness and service they got here,” Lavon said, “That’s what keeps them coming back.”
To see if Style & Swag can win you over, visit them at 653 Hamilton Street, in the Somerset section of Franklin Township.