With entrepreneurial roots that stretch back more than 70 years, the Lucas family continues to be on the forefront of Downtown Napanee’s current revitalization, which was kick-started with their first investments in creating what is now a destination fashion hub for the region.
Coming from a background in fabric, fashion and apparel expertise, Doris Lucas and her son Shaune got the ball rolling with the opening of April’s Image (14 Dundas St. E.) in 2004. A few years later, they added the nearby October’s Clothing Store (8 Dundas St. E.) and even more recently established the adjacent Emma May’s Hattitude (10 Dundas St. E.). They also own Dress for Less, which features end-of-season lines, discontinued and discounted fashions, located one block south of Dundas.
The right choice at the right time
The Lucas family had been involved in a number of businesses, including Napanee Carpet Warehouse as well as a beauty shop and small dress shop among other ventures. In the early 2000's, when Napanee’s downtown was suffering from a blight of empty stores, the Lucas’s chose to invest in some of the vacant properties. When a long-established clothing store closed, Doris and Shaune knew that women’s fashion was the way to go to get businesses to come back to the downtown and to serve the needs of the community.
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“It was the first generation of new retailers to come into the downtown. And once we started purchasing and renovating other buildings and opening businesses, more retailers started to come,” said Shaune, explaining that their two anchor stores have different concepts – April’s is dress casual, while October’s is more sportswear.
“With October's we wanted the store to be part of the experience and so we created a ‘country store’ feel and restored the exterior and opened the walls on the inside. On the east wall we still have an original window from the 1850's. There’s the old-style wood floors and tin ceiling.”
Emma May’s came along within the last three years and is the only hat store in the area, drawing in customers from far and wide. The three closely-clustered fashion outlets, combined with other more recent apparel retailers, has created a true destination for those looking for quality, diverse fashion.
Customer service a key to downtown success
Doris said she sees the payoff of their long term vision by the high percentage of visitors to their stores, and the downtown in general, who come from outside Napanee. She is justifiably proud to have lit the fuse on the downtown’s revitalization nearly 15 years ago, but said that it’s because of the co-operative and collegial nature of all the retailers downtown that is making it an ongoing success.
“I tell people our secret is that we all get along. We have a good thing going. All the fashion stores get together regularly and each one of us, if we don’t have what a customer wants, will send them to one of the other stores,” she said, explaining that more and more people are looking for small, independent retailers who focus on quality products and especially good service.
“I always tell the other merchants, especially the newer ones, it takes a long time to climb a ladder, but it only takes a second to fall off. If you slip on your service or you slip on your friendliness, and not work together, it can go down just as fast.”