What do you get when you pair two college-educated close-knit sisters with 10-kids worth of clothes experience? The answer is Tutus and Suspenders, a retail clothing store for tots to teenagers, at 574 Central Ave. in Cedarhurst.
The more than six-year-old business, now over a year in the brick and mortar location, began as an appointment-only business out of Chani Szlafrok’s garage in Woodmere. Sibling Adina Selmar, a Cedarhurst resident, is her partner. “We out grew the space, there were so many customers and we wanted to showcase more clothes in a bigger area,” Selmar said.
Applying a minimal four-figure investment from their husbands, the sisters began in April of 2013. “I was a blogger,” Selmar said, “I was up at 1 a.m. one night and thought I love shopping, I shopped for my five younger siblings, we could do this.”
Combining their skills, Selmar is the schmoozer and Szlafrok is the organizer, and has a photographic memory of customer needs, they built a business using their smarts and applying the education they received at Brooklyn College as psychology majors. Szlafrok graduated in 2005, Selmar two years later. “We want the kids to feel good, we have clothes for all body types,” Szlafrok said as she and Selmar sat on the lip of a shelving unit full of clothes.
Saying that they will find the clothes customers want, the siblings added that they want the entire shopping experience to be a positive one for the children as well as the parents. To help ensure a happy experience, the pair created a “Celebrity Wall” where they take photos of the youthful customers in their newest threads and with the parents permission post the images to the Tutus and Suspenders Instagram account.
Working long hours to find out the latest clothes, including going to shows and meeting with vendors, Selmar and Szlafrok said after they opened on “the avenue” as Selmar referred to Central Avenue, people said there was a need for a store that sold affordable clothing. Both know about shopping for volume as well as taste in mind.
“We have stuff for everyone, come in, we will help you look fabulous,” Szlafrok said. To prove her point as customers entered the store, one young lady appeared to be a tough sell on clothes her mother was selecting. Szlafrok, then Selmar worked to get the daughter attracted to a piece of apparel.
Szlafrok’s husband, Allan, highlights the fact that “they are successful women entrepreneurs thriving in a difficult retail landscape and how they are able to build a business selling modest but stylish clothing to a changing demographic.” The women underscore that they have clothes for everyone from religious to secular.
Why a brick and mortar store in this viral world? Along with outgrowing the space, the sisters said they had a website but it seemed impersonal. Using Facebook and especially Instagram connects them to their customers. “We have something for everyone, we want it to be a reciprocal relationship,” Selmar said. “We have been told you have the nicest stuff for the best prices.”
Both believe that the store’s success honors their father’s memory. Dr. Jeffrey BenZvi, a gastroenterologist, died in April 2013 just as the business started. “Our father believed in us and we are making him proud because we made really nothing into something,” Selmar said.
Store hours for Tutus and Suspenders are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. On Friday it is open to 2 p.m., and closed on Saturday.