Joelle Goddard-Cooling fondly recalls the day, 25 years ago, when she opened her ladies’ clothing shop in downtown Burlington. “My very first customer still shops with us today!” says Joelle. “We’ve changed locations three times. We started out in an 800 square foot store on John Street which carried a mixture of clothing, accessories and gifts. My mother’s handmade gift bags were a hit from day one—she is still hand making each one 25 years later.”
Joelle had a background in retail sales and as a buyer, she saw an opportunity to open a niche store. “A shop that was more moderately priced at a time when the downtown was mostly higher end.” Joelle’s quickly earned a stellar reputation as a one-top-shop for casual to prom wear, later pivoting to the go-to place for premium denim, casual wear and business casual.
“Many of the brands we carried in the early days we still carry now,” states Joelle. “We have a much larger selection today, but the DNA of the original store still shines through. What really put us on the map is when we carried Nomination bracelets in 2001 before anyone else had them and people used to line up to buy the charms,” explains Joelle. “It really introduced our shop to a wide range of customers.”
When asked what she feels contributes to the long-term success of her shop, Joelle answers: “Our staff is incredible. They stay with us, and they truly care about our customers and provide the best service possible. And our customers are loyal! We really focus on their needs and continue to ebb and flow our selection to suit the moment. As a husband-and-wife team, Jeff (Cooling) and I are extremely hands-on with the business and I feel this makes a difference.” Jeff runs Jeff’s Guyshop as part of Joelle’s, featuring moderately priced, high quality, well branded clothing including premium denim mixed with casual wear, business attire and dressier looks.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic posed the biggest challenge in the store’s 25-year history. “When COVID hit in March a year and a half ago, we had plans for an online shopping site, but it wasn’t up and running yet,” says Joelle. “By May/June our online shopping was born. We have the most loyal customers and the outpouring of concern and support we received was incredible. With the new trend being more casual as people work from home or return to the office, we are perfectly positioned for this with the best denim and a cross section of amazing sweaters, blazers, business casual, weekend and lounge wear.”
Joelle describes the clothing style at her shop as “fashion oriented but sensible.” She adds, “We always carry a bit of leopard, camo, plenty of pink, and the best jeans imaginable. Our clientele ranges in age from the early 30s to late 80s. We have a client in her 80s who just rocks everything she wears!”
As for the future, Joelle is taking things one day at a time. “The past two years has taught us not to plan too far out as you need to adapt to the needs of your customers. Our clients trust us on many levels, from our honest sales approach and incredible service to our corporate responsibility to the community. We have held many fundraising events to raise money for health care and education. Yes, we sell clothing, but for me, what we do to support our community makes me the most proud.”
Joelle’s is located at 457 Brant St. in Downtown Burlington, Joelles.com