There’s not too many stores around that you can walk into and instantly feel like part of the family. So if you find yourself in the North East of the US this spring, we recommend stopping by Mitchells. The specialty store is run by a family of the same name, passed down through generations in the exceedingly picturesque towns of Westport, Connecticut and Huntington, New York. They are well known for exceptional customer service and multi-generational relationships with designers and customers alike. We sat down with Bob Mitchell, the Co-CEO to learn more about the family, the stores, and their secret to next level service.
So, you are one of the Mitchells that gave the store its name?
Yes! I am the third generation of the business. My grandparents started the company in 1958. It began very small, just a 300 square foot store. Or as my grandfather liked to say, we started with “three suits and a dream”. It’s always been a family business. My grandmother was his partner in every type of way, and my great-grandmother was the first seamstress they had, because she could sew. We really started as a community-based store and grew with the community. It’s a great community here in Westport.
When did you come into the picture?
Technically, my first job as a kid was picking up the pins from the carpet, receiving a penny for every picked-up pin. That was a long time ago. It was candy money for me as a kid. We have grown, but I believe that helped me to be grounded. And then I started working my way up into the buying team, then eventually the selling, then women’s, and then to leading the company.
Is it just you or are there more Mitchells too?
Currently, there are six active third-generation and three active second generation working in the company. My mother, brother, and myself all joined the company at the same time. My personal drive was trading up into higher-end menswear. It was my mother that made the push for womenswear too.
Even though you’re no longer what I would call ‘small’, you still seem to have kept this feeling.
We try too. We started with lower price points, taking care of the community. Now even though we have traded up with some of the biggest brands in the world, we still take care of customers. The business has been built around customers first, taking care of them as if they are in your home. It means we can curate the selection for our customers with more personality and distinction than others.
It’s a rare thing these days and something we deeply value here too. How do you do it?
The biggest thing is that we always think about people first and our customers first. There are a lot of beautiful products in the world, and we believe in a great product, but we are defined by people and the experience the customers have in our stores. My dad actually wrote a best-selling book called ‘Hug Your Customers’ about metaphorically hugging people and doing nice things, and how this creates loyalty.
That’s incredible. Do you think his ways have rubbed off on you and your team?
We are all people-based people. We have a great team working here. We have people that have been with us for the past 10, 20, 30,40, and 50 years and we celebrate that. We think that is one of our greatest assets, the associates that breathe and live our values, whether their name ends with Mitchells or not. They are a part of our extended family.
We treat everyone with mutual respect and trust. I feel as a family member we have to earn the respect of every person who works here from new people to people who have been here a long time. Our actions speak louder than anything I can say.
Do you think you’ll always aim to be that community-based store?
That’s the reason why we have kept all the other brands too. We want to be the local store in each of the communities, just with the umbrella of the brand the Mitchell families of stores. So they know they have the power of the brand, so we enhance the local brand they love.
We are looking for measured growth, and that means more locations. We are looking for stores that fit with the Mitchells stores, in a measured way so we can keep the values and financial stability of the company. We are currently building a brand new store that will open in Fall 2024.
We can’t wait. When should we come?
I encourage everyone to visit on a Saturday. Between 12 and 3pm. We call it game day, our busiest day of the week. You’ll see the whole family on the floor, the Mitchell magic, the rush of the customers, people having a good time. I think if you see the action, you’ll understand what we have created.
Check out all their locations. Drop by the store or book an appointment.