The Chou Chou mannequins standing in the window at 21 River Rd. are sporting their familiar “Sale” tees again, but this time they have some company. A giant, yellow MOVING SALE banner hangs overhead, making this sale bittersweet.
On Jan. 2, Chou Chou emailed customers and posted on social media, announcing that, “After 17 wonderful years in Wilton Center, we have made the difficult decision to move Chou Chou to a new location closer to home.”
GOOD Morning Wilton had a chance to catch up with Katie Sanford–who owns the store with her mom Kathy–to learn more about what prompted this monumental decision.
“It wasn’t really one thing, it was the convergence of many things,” Katie says. “Running a 3,000 square-foot store is a lot of work. As most of our customers know, I recently got married and moved to Texas. My sister Heidi also got married and will be moving to Alabama soon. Caroline already lives in Boston and Lily will be making Charlotte her home after she graduates from Davidson this spring. Our family is changing–growing and expanding in a lot of different directions–and although I still manage the backend operations support from Texas, all of the work here in Wilton is on my mother. It’s a lot for one person…too much,” she says, with a wistful note in her voice.
Another factor for the Sanfords was the state of retail today, which has changed and continues to change.
“We know everyone is shopping online; Amazon had its best year ever. Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in what we do–we offer a very personalized customer experience, we have deep connections with our customers and you can’t find that online. But, in considering how shopping has evolved, it became clear we don’t need to have such a large footprint to deliver value,” she explains.
The final piece driving the decision was timing. Chou Chou’s five-year lease with Kimco was up for renewal and the time seemed right to consider a change and close up shop in Wilton.
The good news–in addition to the amazing deals to be had (see photos for more details), there is very much a second act for Chou Chou in the works. “We expect our new location to be open this spring,” Katie teases. “Once details are finalized we will share the news on Instagram and Facebook. We sincerely hope that our Wilton family will come visit us in our new home.”
In the meantime, as shoppers have been flooding the stores for unheard of sale prices, Katie and her mom and her sisters have likewise been flooded with amazing memories.
“We are so grateful for our time in Wilton and the families that we’ve gotten to know who have become dear friends,” Katie says. “It’s been incredibly heartwarming to hear the memories our customers have shared since we made our announcement. One woman told my mom that she recalls trying on a dress that she wasn’t quite sure about, but my mom said it looked great and told her she had to buy it. The customer ended up wearing the dress all the time! It’s been fun stories like that, that Chou Chou meant something to our customers. It will be very hard to leave Wilton.”
Don’t wait too long to stop by and say goodbye to the Sanford’s. With inventory flying out of the store, it’s unclear exactly when Chou Chou’s last day will be.