BRIGHAM COLUMN: Fitting room therapy
One local retail store has launched a hyper-local ad campaign that recently caught my eye, and maybe caught yours, too.
Affordables, a women’s clothing store with locations downtown, in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley and Pawleys Island, is capturing the raw essence of its longtime customers by highlighting Middle America, inspirational women in our city.
Founded in 1969, Affordables first opened its doors as Lowell’s in downtown Charleston and offered high-end, modern trends and accessories. In the 1980s, the store became Affordables by Lowell, the first discount fashion retail store in the area.
Fast forward to present time with new owners Zack Kelly and Lyndon Amick and a fresh, new vision of what the locally owned store wants to say to Charleston: that they genuinely care and that it’s not always about the dollar.
Nora Innis, general manager, has been with Affordables for 14 years. She says she often feels deep connections with those who shop at the store and has developed strong relationships over the years.
“You can’t just skim the surface,” she says. “Everybody is worth knowing.”
Customers visit the store for a reason: They are going to a celebration, they are hoping to feel better or are trying to figure out how to feel more comfortable in their own skin, she says.
There is a story behind every one who walks through the door.
“It’s women that are going through cancer, divorce, having babies,” she says. “I can be in the dressing room for hours with someone who just had a mastectomy, and she’s going to a party — and she’s in tears.”
The campaign features real women, and real customers every month.
This month, the ad features Maxine Stullenbarger, who has been shopping at Affordables for more than 20 years. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer three years ago.
Stullenbarger says she looks at this disease a different way. She spends time talking with other cancer patients and their families to help them cope with the disease.
“When I was first diagnosed, I went through those stages, you know, but ... I’m very strong-willed,” she says. “I have this term, the (beautiful individual that can handle anything) mode, and I couldn’t get it, I couldn’t find it,” she says.
The cancer overwhelmed her, but three months later, she decided not to let the disease take over.
“I got over myself,” she says. “I tell people that I’m giving them 90 days to get over it to start fighting this disease because if you don’t, it’s just going to take over and you’re not going to win.”
Stullenbarger was chosen as this month’s featured customer because she takes her negative energy and turns it into positive energy and lives life to the fullest.
“I have the advantage. I know I’m dying,” she says. “There are people out there walking around that are dying and they don’t know they are dying. I am not afraid of death. I try to take the fear out of the eyes of all these cancer patients. Don’t be afraid. Live by the moment. Enjoy what you have because you’re making memories for all your loved ones.”
“I think about Maxine every day, about how she’s able to face this,” Innis says. “She’s able to get up in the morning and go — and laugh. It’s just so inspirational to me.”
Visit www.affordables apparel.comto see amazing photos of Stullenbarger, listen to her interview and learn about some of the cool items this store offers (including a $25 gift card giveaway on its Facebook page).