EMILY’S, A RICHMOND ROAD STAPLE FOR 36 YEARS, EXPANDS ITS LINES AND ITS VISION
BY JENNIFER VIKSE • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
For more than 35 years, Emily Rassias has been a part of women’s lives on Staten Island. Whether it’s teens picking out a perfect Sweet Sixteen or prom dress to their mothers shopping for special occasions, her boutique, Emily’s, on Richmond Road in Dongan Hills, has helped the Island’s women look and feel their best.
When Rassias opened her store in 1982, she focused on sportswear mostly work and play but realized rather quickly that her clients were interested in more. In 1990, the store underwent its first expansion, doubling in size to accommodate a growing clientele.
“As things progressed, we got busier. There was a huge demand for eveningwear, special occasion wear,” noted Rassias, who doubled her space again in 1999 when she created an eveningwear salon. There, she could show elegant gowns to her clients in a comfortable, private setting.
Then last year, Rassias did it again, expanding the eveningwear salon. “The space next door became available, which added another 1,000 square feet, so we redid everything. We have luxurious, beautiful fitting rooms, and private fitting areas. It’s given us a better way to display and share all of our merchandise. It’s more like a showroom.”
The eveningwear salon is done in elegant grays and silver, boasting three chandeliers, tufted velvet furniture, and fine wall coverings under a tray ceiling.
The expansion was finished in October of last year, and the result is exactly what Rassias had intended.
“I wanted to create a more comfortable, luxurious environment,” she said, to complement the customer service Emily’s has become known for. “I want our clients to be able to select from curated collections. I go all over; I search different showrooms. I try to find the best,” adding that the new showroom makes it easier for customers.
“Every area has a private section. Some women come in looking for a gown for a special event. They come with somebody else; they never come alone. So, this is nice,” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to have space and be comfortable.”
Buying a special occasion dress online isn’t advisable, Rassias said, since you need to be able to see how the cut, color, and silhouette actually look on the body.
“You need to try it on,” the owner stated flatly. “It’s important to have that in store experience.”
For Rassias, inviting people into the showroom is like having them visit her house; she wants it to be a memorable experience. “I’m Greek,” she quipped. “We feed you, we take care of you, we want you to be happy.”
In addition to the enlarged eveningwear salon, the expansion allowed Rassias to devote more space to the sportswear collection. She carries a range of designers, including Elie Tahari, Nanette Lepore, Lafayette 148 New York, and many others.
The store and showroom meld with the sales staff, whose collective goal is to make shoppers feel welcome, and informed.
“It’s the whole package. We want them to feel good about themselves. We want them to find the perfect things, feel confident, feel good about their purchase,” Rassias said, adding that she has an expert seamstress who “can do anything, because things need to be tweaked and fitted just so.”
And the sales staff know the clientele, Rassias added. “Everyone styles differently. My people like to look a certain way. Some people like jazzy…beaded. We work together as a team really well,” she said. We help each other.”
Since she’s been working with the same loyal customers for some time, Rassias said, she and her team know their likes and dislikes. She keeps those relationships in mind when picking out new pieces for her collection. She also invites designers in for trunk shows.
“Bringing in a new designer helps us get a feel for whether the client likes it. How does it fit? To see the whole collection, and get a read on it,” she said, adding with a smile that clients tend to pick the same pieces she would pick for them. “They always end up buying what we select. We’ve been here for 36 years. We know what they want.”
And the owner also knows more about her clients than just style preferences. In fact, she said, they’re almost like extended family.
“It’s not a one time sale. We sell some girls their prom dresses; now we’re doing dresses for their engagement party, rehearsal dinner, shower. It’s nice to be part of that experience,” she said. “We sell things for happy occasions. What’s better than that?”
1654 Richmond Road 718.351.0979 /