Natasha Fomina: Vera & Alex
With sunny beaches, plentiful parks, and a whole lot of ice cream, Martha’s Vineyard is practically swimming with young children. Up until recently, however, these children had no mini-sized boutiques to call their own. The high demand made Natasha Fomina, the owner of Vera & Alex in Oak Bluffs, realize the high potential a store like this can have. With her first season well underway, we sat down with her to find out why she came to the island, and if it has met her expectations.
TW: What’s your background in retail? Did you go to school for business?
NF: I have a Masters of Management from Fashion and Design from Bocconi University in Milan Italy. I had some internships with high-end companies, and middle range as well, so I have experience prior to owning my own store.
TW: What made you open a clothing store just for children?
NF: The lack of children’s stores on the island, and the opportunity that existed to style children to the island, both for local customers and for tourists.
TW: Why on the Vineyard?
NF: I have been living here for 16 years, and I pretty much know the customers and the area pretty well. It was easier to estimate the demand, and the brand customers would like.
TW: How have sales been so far this season?
NF: So far, it’s the first season, it’s a lot of estimation and approximation because it’s hard to predict what customers would really buy. So far, it’s been up to my expectations.
TW: What’s the most popular item in the store?
NF: I would say it’s the Babiator sunglasses and the Tea Collection items. Pretty much everything under the brand, it’s at an affordable price and runs in the large brand of sizes. It caters to a wide range of audiences.
TW: Does Vera & Alex attract a certain crowd?
NF: It attracts a variety of people, definitely expecting moms and their friends who would like to buy gifts, definitely grandmas buying for a baby shower, or grandchildren visiting them on the Vineyard. [The crowd] is also regulars who rent houses on the Vineyard. Local people who come in to buy for their children, especially the demand up to 12 years old. There are a lot of tourists browsing from big cities who are interested in leisure shopping out of curiosity.
TW: What are your plans for the future? Opening another store or expansion?
NF: I think for now we will stay in Oak Bluffs for at least another season and fine tune the brand offering, and then after that, we will consider expanding maybe first on the island, and then in the New England area.
TW: Have you decided if you’re going to keep the store open in the off season?
NF: Probably decide after Christmas. Definitely through Christmas, [judging] by the demand.