Owner, Piper Boutique
Style. We all embrace it.
For every engagement, whether you are going to work, on a date, lounging at home, traveling, you name it....there is an outfit for all occasions. We seek apparel that evokes feelings. We want clothing that makes us feel good. Such as handsome, pretty, cultural, strong and professional. Anything to fit the 'mood.' We also base these outfits out of comfort. Don’t we all want to look somewhat graceful on the dance floor? Maybe a little put together while grocery shopping? Not only is it important to feel good in clothing, it needs to fit properly too!
So what appeals to you?
For stylists and clothing store owners it's hard to figure out what is approachable, especially when no mind thinks alike!
One can be attracted to certain fabric types, colors or patterns. Also, no two bodies are the same. Each individual has their own unique shape which allows for a wide range of styles that flatter and highlight people’s unique features. As a consumer it is hard for one to stay up with the trends and understand what shapes and styles work for their body. Fortunately there are highly skilled professionals that can do this work for us and put ease to our shopping experiences.
Alessandra Bange-Hall, owner of Piper Boutique, set her career in fashion from the moment she stepped foot into the ‘real world’ and has never looked back. She is a devoted professional stylist. This fashion forward women’s boutique has two locations, one in Saratoga Springs, NY and another in Philadelphia, PA. She is approaching her ten year anniversary at both stores and is only excited for what’s to come next for the company. Since the demographics are a bit different, the two stores are similar yet each showcase their own individual style. The Saratoga location caters to women with ages ranging from the mid twenties to sixty whereas with the Philadelphia store being close to the University naturally there is a bit younger of a clientele. Hall says there is a lot of synergy between the two stores.
“I always compare it to shopping in your best friend's closet.”
Piper’s mission is to offer clothing that makes people feel great. Fashion that evokes confidence. The stylists ensure that you look good in the clothing you leave with and also that you feel gorgeous! Fashion can make people feel beautiful both inside and out. Piper is set apart from other stores as they focus on clothing made in the USA with high textile quality and all products are machine washable. They carry sizes 0 - 16 and tailor to the everyday woman. The store is filled with trends for the business professional, the working mom and the college student. There are styles made for lounging at home and also that eye catching statement dress for that 'big night out.'
The big kicker, that Piper has always held true to even with the rise in our economy and increased pricing, is that every item in Piper is priced under $100! That’s right; it is affordable. You don’t have to break the bank to look good and feel good. The store offers recognizable name brands that are on trend and unique to both Saratoga and Philadelphia. Her stylists really spend time with the customers and are honest and respectful. They will never sell you something that doesn’t look good on you. Am I right when I say that everyone has had a shopping experience where the retail associate makes you feel like a garment looks beautiful on you only for you to get home and it is the most unflattering thing you’ve ever seen on your body? It happens far too often. Piper prides themselves on honesty and embracing each individual's unique features. Bange-Hall says, “Authenticity is the biggest thing in business.” Piper Boutique listens to their customers and really gauges what they want. They value what is important to them.
“Everyone’s body is extremely different. Even when two people are the same it doesn’t mean that they’re not self conscious about different things. You can have two people that are identical and one person hates their butt and another person loves their butt. What people want to accentuate is really different and that really set’s Piper apart is that it’s so specific and so customized and tailored to each person because everyone is totally different.”
Bange-Hall graduated from St. Lawrence University with a degree in economics and later found a financial job in NYC for the fashion company Marc Jacobs. After a couple years she decided she wanted to open her own independent women's clothing boutique.
Having been only 23, with the country just coming off a recession she states “I can't believe I thought, wow this is ok, this is gonna work.” She just went for it, took the risk and has successfully grown.
“You put your heart and soul into your business, the stores are like my babies. It’s so much more than just a business, it's so much more than just a job.”
She couldn’t be more thankful for the Saratoga community. Hall says, “You can't ask for a better launching pad than Saratoga.” All the retailers look out for one another. They are close and helpful. This strong sense of community has helped Piper flourish through the years. Even when she first started she remarks about how incredible and helpful other shop owners were.
“One of the cool things about Saratoga is that we all want everyone to be successful. You want people to come to Saratoga and say, ‘I am going to go shopping for the day.’ It's not always advantageous to be just one destination. You want a conglomerate of shopping and restaurants.”
Bange-Hall feels fortunate that even during these crazy times, (COVID 19 pandemic) Saratoga is holding strong and the community is more supportive of each other more than ever before. Saratoga continues to be a destination, as people have needed a safe and enjoyable space to come to. People that live within NYS have been going on small road trips rather than taking large extravagant vacations.
“There's not a lot of main streets left in the United States. That downtown promenade feel of shopping (and restaurants). We are so lucky...places don't really have that.”
She says in the past ten years Saratoga has transformed a lot. Fortunately, prior to the pandemic, Saratoga already had a well established downtown district. While all working together the city has had many efforts to bring the inside, outside. Stores have been able to successfully showcase their offerings while thinking outside of the box and through eye catching visual displays to draw in consumers.
“When people come from downstate they say ‘It's like la la land up here.’ Saratoga is a really refreshing place to come.”
For all businesses there has been much trial and error but Piper has mastered all safety precautions. Naturally, in a small store people observe social distancing. Racks are positioned six feet apart and only so many people can fit in a small space. There is an open, continuous flow. Hall says when COVID-19 first happened, she was naive (as we all were) but she says this is the way of life now.
“You are significantly safer shopping small because we clean in between customers. Our safety protocols were always crazy. I've always had hand sanitizer, lysol; not a big change in that way.”
Retail therapy can be empowering and help someone feel in control of their feelings. Shopping can fill an emotional gap. It is an outlet to de-stress, feel good about ourselves, feel desired and with it carries a sense of accomplishment. With all of the seriousness going on in the world right now, shopping is a safe, care free and relaxing activity. It’s a time to break free from all the chaos.
“When people come in they are thrilled not to be at home and thrilled that it's safe. People are receptive.”
The shift in culture has influenced fashion. Since COVID-19 happened Piper has been carrying more loungewear and simple statement pieces. People love matching outfits with face masks, they have become a sought out accessory. Bange-Hall says that she couldn't sell a pair of earrings to save her life right now but masks, everyone wants.
“People just love loungewear and it's really transitioned into everyday wear. You can throw joggers on with regular shoes and a blazer. Prior to COVID-19 I wouldn't leave my house in a tie dye jogger set but everything is fair game these days.”
With the pandemic and the sedentary lifestyle that comes with it people are generally self conscious of their bodies. This is something that Piper has been responsive to and has been customizing her store based on this. You can find cozy pajamas, sweaters and clothing that provides comfort.
As with everything, through hard times people find ways to enrich their lives and grow. The pandemic has everyone pushed to their limits. Bange-Hall says she has never worked so hard in her life. She never thought she could work harder than when she first started Piper but 2020 has proven this wrong. Recently Piper had their launch of their new E Commerce website, called www.piperboutique.com.
“Covid caused people to pivot in business and shift a lot to online.”
Bange-Hall is now focusing heavily on Piper’s website and social media outlets. Online sales have helped her to stay afloat during these times and she is so happy she is able to reach her loyal customers. As the world changes and shifts so do brick and mortar stores. Bange-Hall is interested in seeing what the percentage in sales will be at the brick and mortar store versus E-Commerce store, once the world returns back to some normalcy.
“If you're not used to it now, you just got to get used to it cuz that’s the way of the world. I've reached the point, a Meteor didn't hit the earth and we don’t have to hunt for food and we don't not have power for a year, we will live, we will get through it. Even if you dont think it's gonna be ok you just have to plug forward.”
It’s so true, it’s all we can do. We need to take action on what we have been learning and execute a positive impact. The more movement we make and the more we allow ourselves to accept change, a better outcome will happen for all. As a woman, small business owner, community member, and so much more, Alessandra Bange-Hall is truly inspiring. Many people have given up hope during COVID-19 but Piper has only gotten stronger. During this time she has been growing her business and isn’t allowing anything to stop her path, only gaining momentum. One thing that Bange-Hall said that we feel is important to share is, “Love the skin you're in. Especially right now. Be happy that you are healthy and that your family is healthy; love yourself.” Piper Boutique is a must visit store! They way they cater each individual and the special care they take in ensuring a positive experience, gives customers a sense of home, comfort and familiarity.
Q + A with Alessandra Bange Hall
Q: What inspires you?
A: “Customer feedback. “You want people to feel like you're doing it right, that you're making people happy and feeling beautiful, that's the goal. It's just so gratifying to make someone feel good.”
Q: What are your ‘Girls Night Out’ events?
A: One night a month, Piper picks a local charity and donates a portion of her proceeds from a 'shop and sip' to that charity-
“It just feels good and it's keeping the philanthropy in the community.” She does this at both stores. “I like keeping it local, it's a better sense of community” She has all intentions of this returning post COVID-19.
Q: Have you noticed a shift in your industry for women?
A: "Most businesses in Saratoga are female owned. It just shows people are willing to take risks, men are willing to take risks too.”
“There are so many opportunities as far as grants and loans, so if you want to do something you need to look for every single channel where being a female benefits you. You have to search for all those positives.”
Q: What does the word Moxxi mean to you?
A: “When someone has moxxi it just means they have courage. More daring, more courageous.”
In regards to Moxxi Coffee Company...
“You've created a safe space for women who have had some not so great experiences. You have to acknowledge the stuff that has happened in the past. I think it's cool Leslie is creating a space for women to do that.”
Q: How do you take your coffee?
A: She only has one cup in the morning. In her 20’s she would have coffee all day long and in her 30’s has become much more of a tea drinker. When she