Desperately Seeking Different
When Heather Robitzer saw the vacant space at 109 West State Street five years ago, she had a vision of what it could be. Today, everyone who walks into No. 109 experiences that vision come to life. The vibe is bright, sophisticated, and inviting—a reflection of Robitzer herself as she welcomes customers with a warm smile.
No. 109’s stunning window displays, under the trademark black-and-white striped awning, beckon curious browsers inside to discover a rich array of colors and textures, striking accessories, and delightful and unusual gifts. From chic and elegant to casual and comfortable or a fun mix of both, Robitzer’s carefully curated closet features unique lines and flattering cuts that bring the world to Kennett Square. Traveling is one of her family’s favorite pastimes, and part of her inspiration for No. 109 came from seeing versions of the same styles wherever they went. She knew there had to be designers offering other, more diverse options.
“My favorite word is different,” Robitzer says. “I’ve always been on the quirkier side … I never wanted the brand-name handbag. I wanted the one no one’s heard of.” She’s proud that No. 109 offers a distinctively different selection of “beautifully edited fashion.” She cultivates that aesthetic in every hand-selected item, choosing pieces that customers won’t find everywhere else. She scours the world, literally—from Aspen to London, Nashville, Madrid, and other far-flung places—for newer, yet-to-be-discovered and fabulous designers.
“I’m desperately seeking different,” she says. It’s hard work, she admits, staying ahead of trends and sourcing brands that other boutiques aren’t carrying, but she’s committed to sharing the joy of being unique and original with her customers. Her goal? To help women look and feel fabulous.
When her twin daughters were born 15 years ago, Robitzer happily pressed pause on a career in designing, buying, merchandising, and styling. Her family sold their boutique in Greenville and she and her husband moved to Chadds Ford, where she devoted herself to raising her beautiful girls. Her family is her greatest joy, and when she started thinking about going back to work she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t sacrifice her time and relationships with her husband and daughters. The dream of owning her own small business began to take shape in her mind. “I always loved retail and wanted to do it again,” she says.
That opportunity came five years ago, when she saw the empty storefront on State Street in the town she loves and calls “my town.” Taking the step to open the shop and fulfill this dream was a scary decision to make as a 45-year-old woman, she says. “I was fearful and wondered if I’d remember anything, if my brain had turned to mush. But my husband was so supportive and encouraging and put those doubts to rest.”
Robitzer designed everything from the floor plan to the shelving herself, found people to create it for her, and watched over every detail as the space came together. “I didn’t sleep for four months, but it was exhilarating and exciting,” she says. “My brain was firing in all directions and I knew it was the right thing to have done.”
It’s Not About Selling Something,
But Cultivating a Relationship.
– HEATHER ROBITZER
Although it’s not always easy owning a small brick-and-mortar shop in the age of internet shopping, the years since Robitzer first opened her doors have confirmed that she made the right decision. Her passion for helping women build a wardrobe that will make them look and feel great, and for sharing laughter and life’s ups and downs along the way, remains focused and strong.
“It’s not about selling something,” she says, “but about cultivating a relationship.” She values her customers’ trust and loves to see the look on a woman’s face when she steps out of the dressing room, glowing and transformed from the inside out. “That kind of personal service and best-friend advice from someone who wants you to feel beautiful and confident will always set us apart from the internet,” Robitzer says. “People need and appreciate that.”
Robitzer is grateful for her customers as well as for the strong merchant-to-merchant community in Kennett Square. “Everyone is incredibly supportive,” she says. “I’ve never been in a place like this. It’s truly a community in every sense of the definition.” She appreciates the camaraderie and mutual support, from working together on events and marketing initiatives to daily expressions of friendship and assistance with day-to-day details.
She describes times she’s called another merchant to see if they have an item a customer is looking for and personally walking her over to their shop. “Other merchants do the same, and we’re happy to do that,” she says. In the same way, shop employees who need help or have questions know they have a neighborhood network of people they can call on.
This Sense of Community is Not
Lost on the Customer. They Notice It
& They Love It When They
See Us Working Together.
– HEATHER ROBITZER
“If a customer has a baby carriage, I make sure she knows to check out Penny Lane Emporium a few doors down,” Robitzer says. And most important of all, she says, “This sense of community is not lost on the customer. They notice it and they love it when they see us working together.”
Robitzer actively looks for ways to promote the arts and the many talented people she meets here. She recently came across the beautiful work of a young mom in town and began brainstorming how she could collaborate with her—to encourage her creatively and to showcase her lovely designs in the shop. Customers can now find this artist’s personalized lettering on leather clutches at No. 109.
World Traveler & Hometown Girl
Robitzer finds Kennett Square, and No. 109, a great place to return home to after traveling around the States or abroad. Increasingly, she’s finding that her hometown is a destination spot for other travelers. “Kennett Square is really getting a name for itself,” she says. She sees people coming here on girls’ weekends, couples who make a point of stopping in at the shop on annual getaways, and lots of travelers from many different places on weekends. She loves talking to them all.
If she’s not in the store, Robitzer is probably traveling with family or friends—or in the kitchen creating some kind of baking extravaganza with her girls. “When all else fails, we bake,” she says. She cherishes spending those times with them in the kitchen. “It’s time to be together without realizing you’re together,” she says with a smile. “My mom baked, and I realized that was her go-to thing too. When things aren’t going right, we pull out the flour, sugar, and butter, and somehow that always brings it around right.”
Robitzer is a woman who has found her place, and she exudes a joyful sense of gratitude and presence. “I’m just a happy store owner,” she says, “and the shop is my happy place.”
’Tis the Season at No. 109
“Look for lots of plaid, faux fur and fur, leopard prints, and statement jewelry this season,” Robitzer says. She and her staff offer extended hours and special events and services to make holiday shopping as fun and hassle-free as possible.
No. 109 is open early and late through December to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules. Expanded holiday hours include early-morning shopping at 8 a.m. on Mondays and Saturday evenings until 7 p.m., in addition to extended opening hours for the Longwood Shuttle.
Wish lists, a concierge service (fashion consultation by phone, text, or FaceTime), gift wrapping, and shipping as well as door-to-door delivery options are also available.
Mark your calendars for girls’ shopping day on December 6th and men’s night—complete with professional models, catering, and gift wrapping—on December 12th. The first-ever Tinsel on the Town, a holiday shopping soiree on State Street, will feature a craft beer garden, a DJ, artisan vendors, and s’mores and Santa Claus from 6 to 9 p.m. on December 13th.