At 65, Ivor Sheff, owner of the downtown Charleston niche boutique Ivor’s Trunk, is ready for retirement — but he has plans for his store to continue to serve Charleston, and maybe expand after he steps aside.
“Ivor’s Trunk is going nowhere,” Sheff said. “We’re going to be right here in this location, hopefully for years.”
The store is in downtown’s Payne Building, along with Galperin Jewelry, which is closing in March. Sheff said he recently extended his rental agreement with Kanawha-Roxalana Company, which bought the Payne Building in April.
Charleston native Meridith Barth joined Ivor’s Trunk as an apprentice on Wednesday. Sheff said he’s been thinking of selling the business, and although nothing has been signed, he and Barth plan for her to take over.
“She can learn the business, be introduced to my suppliers,” Sheff said. “[Barth coming in] takes a burden off my shoulders.”
Barth, 29, worked retail for three years in Newport Beach, California after graduating from West Virginia University. She worked as a buyer for a storefront, which sent her on weekly merchandise trips to Los Angeles.
The merchandise was more handbags, scarves, jewelry and accessories instead of clothes, Barth said.
For the next year, she’ll travel with Sheff to supply market cities such as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas and New York.
While there are other fine clothing retail stores in Charleston, Ivor’s Trunk has its own little niche and a very loyal customer base, Sheff said.
“People come here for things that they wouldn’t find at a department store. That’s why people come here — to find something different and get great buys,” Sheff said. “That was depressing to me — thinking if I just close the doors in two years where are those people going to shop?”
Sheff and Barth want to expand and bring new merchandise into the store to attract a broader customer base. Ivor’s Trunk would like to attract customers as young as 17 moving forward, they said.
With Galperin Jewelry going out of business, it provides the potential for Ivor’s to expand next door, Sheff said. But any expansion would depend on demand and the willingness of Sheff’s landlord to let the business expand, he said.
“That would be the ultimate,” Sheff said. “For this store, which was at one time Peck’s, one of Charleston’s premier clothing stores, to have the whole thing restored back to where it was.”
Barth would look to bring new independent clothing lines from California she did previous business with to Charleston. She will also look to build the store a website and connect with customers on social media.
“I’ve always shopped at Ivor’s,” Barth said. “I’ve always looked up to the store — it gives Charleston a different variety of items to shop other than what’s at the mall. It’s exciting to come in and maybe have it as my own.”
Sheff said he would not take on the responsibility of an apprentice if he did not expert her to take over in the future.
Once Sheff hands over Ivor’s Trunk, he said, he would still be involved and in the store working three to four days a week when he is not in Florida per contractual agreement.
“Anyone that really wants to come and see me can come and see me,” Sheff said. “She sees and her family sees the potential as to what this could mean to downtown Charleston.”
Reach Caitlin Cook at email@example.com, 304-348-5113 or follow @caitlincookWV on Twitter.