B. Real Opens in Riverfront Building
By Craig Smith
B. Real Women’s Fashion opened in February, 2012, at 770 Main Street in the Riverfront Building (next to Fish Story.) Store owner, Sarah Illia said the mission of B. Real is “to provide the ladies of the wine country with fashionable, wearable clothes that they will look and feel great in.” The lines, many of which are made in the US, cater to women of all ages and styles. “We like to keep reasonable price points. We rarely have anything in the store over $200, and have jewelry and scarves as low as $14.”
B. Real opened in Healdsburg two years ago last February, and it was successful from the start. While opening two stores in two years is quite an accomplishment for anyone, it’s even more extraordinary for someone her age. Sarah just turned 25.
“I studied at the Santa Rosa JC, but school just wasn’t for me. I learn better through trial and error.” Sarah’s father and mother, Richard and Lori, are partners in the business. “Silent partners,” adds Richard, laughing. “I do the books and whatever else I’m told.”
In addition to school, Sarah worked part time at a clothing store in downtown Healdsburg. The store specialized in high end, European style wear. An avid reader, Sarah enjoyed Steve Jobs, Donald Trump (“people think he’s kind of out there, but I admire his business skills”) and Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad). While still in school, she put together a business plan for a second-hand clothing store, thinking acquiring the inventory would be easier, and took the idea to her parents.
“I know she’s my daughter, but it was a good plan. We wanted to support her and be part of the new venture. It has turned out to be a great for all of us,” Richard said.
The store owner where Sarah worked decided to retire, and she took over the location. “Everything just fell into place from there,” Richard said. Sarah decided to forego the second-hand shop concept, and carry fashion that she, herself, really liked. A long-time buyer for high end department stores consulted her and introduced her to the industry. “I love fashion, and I really like the math and planning involved in buying. It’s my favorite part of the business,” she said.
Sarah adjusts what she buys based on the feedback she gets from customers. “ I spend 7 days a week in the stores. I can see first-hand what our customers like.” She currently carries Lynn Richie, Lindi, Bejia Flor Denim (featured as Oprah’s “fashion fix”) Ecru (“a fabulous pant line!”) Cubism, Sledge and Glima, among many others.
Sarah wears everything she sells – and so does her mom. “Good fashion isn’t about a particular age or set of rules. It’s about having fun and expressing your personal style and feeling great in it. We want every woman who walks out the door looking and
Sarah is extremely pleased to have met Oksana Gores, whom she hired as store manager. “Oksana is so great. She has an excellent sense of fashion and loves working with the customers.
“Locating in Napa was the best move we could have made. We fell in love with Napa as soon as we visited the new Riverfront District, and have been looking for a spot here for over a year.” Sarah wanted to get more experience under her belt first, but knew it was time to make the move when she met the owner of the Riverfront, Mike DeSimoni. “He’s great, and by the time we met, there were a lot of other good businesses here.”
Working with her family has had its challenges. “It has been a definite change,” she laughed. Hearing this, her dad smiled and agreed, “We did have to get used to a role reversal, but Sarah is very good at what she does. I’ve learned to stay out of the way and let her and Lori do their thing!”
Sarah’s confidence is reflected in her motto for herself, which has become the store motto as well. “B. Confident, B. Different, B. Real.” B. Real is open seven days a week.
Visit online at http://www.brealfashion.com, or in person at both the Healdsburg and Napa locations.