After 30 years of outfitting Clovis women for vacations, parties and reunions, Barabra’s Fashions in Old Town Clovis is closing its store permanently, due to hardships suffered by the fashion industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I never want to give the customers less than what they expect from here,” said store owner Julie Herring. “I could not keep the store open without delivering a lesser product.”
The supply chain of fashion is similar to a spinning wheel: a mainstream retailer builds a crowd of buyers in smaller, local markets, and delivers goods to a boutique like Barbra’s Fashions, who in turn delivers the brand’s clothes to customers.
Yet COVID-19 put a stop to that spinning wheel; with the state’s stay-at-home order, Barbra’s Fashions closed down for six weeks. Even when the boutique came back, nobody was buying clothes, because nobody was going out anywhere.
“The clothes at Barbra’s Fashions are meant to be worn to special occasions, but when COVID came, all those events were canceled,” Herring said.
Barbra’s Fashions has a history in Old Town Clovis dating back 30 years, when Barbra Holthy took over a bedding store and turned it into a boutique. By building relationships with retailers, Holthy was able to sell clothes that no other store had, thereby building a reputation among her Clovis customers.
Julie joined Barbra as a clerk in the boutique in 1998, after the two met years earlier when both worked in the cosmetics business.
“Barbra taught me the main thing is the relationship with the customers,” Herring remembers. “If we didn’t have something in someone’s size, we would tailor it just for them.”
Barbra taught Julie the “ins and outs” of running the boutique until Barbra retired in 2006, handing the day-to-day duties of running the store to Julie.
Julie kept the familiar name and brand, Barbra’s Fashions, and continued to serve loyal customers until Sunday, March 17, when her store was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the first time in the store’s 30-year history that Barbra’s Fashions closed.
The closure lasted six weeks, with a significant revenue loss during and following the closure. It led Herring to make some tough decisions regarding the store’s future.
“It’s been very stressful, because you can’t predict the future,” Herring said. “For a boutique, I have to buy fall orders in advance, and I didn’t have the confidence to do that this season.”
So on August 1st, Julie Herring decided to close Barbra’s Fashions permanently in September. It was a tough decision for Herring, given how many customers and retailers depended on her, but as she put it, she did not want to harm the store’s reputation by having a half-full store this season.
“There is no guarantee customers will come this fall or the COVID situation will be over,’ Herring explains. “Everyday is a mystery to me.”
Herring plans on holding a going-out-of-business sale during September, with the store officially closing at the end of the month. She maintains she would look to partner with someone in the spring to continue selling clothes, if that is possible.
To her customers, Julie Herring wants to send one last message.
“Thank you for being loyal for over 25 years, and enjoying my fashion choices. It’s a family here, and losing that is going to be the hardest part.”