J. Seitz and Company: In a Family Way
“Luckily, it was in the genes.” Joanna Seitz isn’t talking about the fabulous leather-ette coated pair of denim AG pants ($198) flying off the racks at her eponymous New Preston store, J.Seitz & Company. She’s referring to her daughter Amanda’s ability to share the top spot at the family store. “We are a very artistic family, so I could have gotten some other gene, but I got this one and I guess it works,” Amanda says. The Seitz women effortlessly finish each other’s sentences — at times it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Both have a keen eye for what their clients like and a precise savvy when it comes to knowing what’s best for the three decades-old hot spot.
So many families in business together are interesting only for their drama; the Seitz’s have a notable lack of Falcon’s Crest power struggles. There’s nothing but praise for each other, and Joanna says that Amanda, with her eye for design, may one day take over for her mentor/mother. When most family enterprises of this age and ilk devolve into family bickering and Chapter 11 filings, Joanna says, “We are this ‘We all get along well family business,’ and that doesn’t always happen. Our dream is that we’ll retire to New Mexico, ride off into the sunset, and she’ll run the store.” (Joanna’s husband of 34 years, Bill, from Bombay India, was a professional interiors and design book photographer when he joined the store about twelve years ago. “I told him that we were so busy, we need you. So he came in and got us computerized and really got us up to speed with our client level,” Joanna says.)
J. Seitz & Company is housed in a 5,000-square-foot former car dealership overlooking a waterfall with a wrap-around terrace used for spring and summer events and parties. “When we opened, we were an instant hit,” Joanna says. “We were trying to do something different. People try to emulate us, but they come, they go, no one has been around as long as we have. I guess we have the formula, and we have great clients that support us, so we are very lucky.”
True enough: There is no end to the surprises at the store. Octopus pendant necklaces, deer antlers on vases, beeswax skull-shaped candles, and spiders on tumblers for instance. “We have that ‘cabinets of curiosities’ approach,” says Joanna, who hails from New York City and was an editor at House Beautiful before moving to Connecticut. “We love anything natural, anything buggy, skull-y. We go all over to find things that are artist-made rather than use big manufacturers.” (One example: pottery by Vermonter Laura Zindel, $18 & up.) “We have things we’ve stocked from the beginning, from places like Cedar Light near Santa Fe, who make natural room fresheners”($30 & up).
The tight-knit family-owned emporium offers up a full two floors of shopping. The lower is dedicated to furniture, with shelter-magazine-ready vignettes of Cisco Brothers Belgian linen sofas ($5000 & up), Mitchell Gold furniture ($400 & up), and RLH Collection chairs ($400 & up), “nothing crazy, just slightly offbeat and interesting.” The top floor houses easy-to-wear lines from James Perse (Contrast Panel Shirt, $155 & up) and John Patrick Organic (tees, $98), Matta (Kurta Dress, $195), Alex Lehr (Cotton Fleece Tunic, $212), Layla (Printed Raj Top, $312), and Leigh & Luca (cotton/silk scarves, $198). In addition to the women’s and men’s apparel, there are hostess and baby gifts, jewelry, and various accessories, with a smattering of beauty products like Jurlique ($58 & up) and Los Poblanos ($65 & up). They also stock designers for men like Billy Reid, 2012 CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year ($178 & up).
Big as it is already, J. Seitz and Company has no desire to expand. “We’ve had so many offers over the years, but you don’t want to ruin it,” Joanna says. Amanda adds. “If you put us in a mall, you’ll lose the heart and soul of what this store is all about. We are up against Bergdorf’s, Barneys, ABC Home & Carpet. We have to be sharp and have to keep on our toes—we’re up against stiff, global competition. So we have to keep surprising our clients. But we want to do it here.” —Dale Stewart
J. Seitz & Co.
9 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT 06777