Hello and welcome to Stile by Per Lei! I’m Candice, the owner, and I’m thrilled you stopped by to learn a little more about us!
I grew up in a small business family and was always intrigued by the ins and outs of business. I went to college to study event planning and studied abroad in Italy, which would later inspire the names of my two boutiques. Shortly after graduating, I found myself working at a menswear store answering the phones, and this is where I met Bruce, who would later become my husband!
After we purchased the menswear business from the original owners, work attire for men began to move away from formal suits, causing the business to decline. At this point, I knew I wanted to open a store of my own and asked Bruce if he could rent 500 square feet of his store to give women a place to shop too.
Together, we opened Per Lei (“For Her” in Italian) in 2007. The proposed 500 square feet quickly became 1,000 square feet of some of the most popular brands, including Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexis Bittar, and Rebecca Taylor.
Shortly after opening, we faced the 2008 recession, forcing us to compete with big retailers that largely discounted their merchandise. This was an obstacle we never thought we’d face, but we refused to let the positive morale of the new business drop. I believe in manifestation and putting positive energy into the universe, and this first major roadblock did not stop me from believing in the future of our business.
With Bruce’s business experience and my persistence, Per Lei later expanded to two more locations post-recession in Avalon and Sea Isle, NJ. The Avalon location was instantly a hit, quickly gaining customers that loved to shop in the beach town.
But then, after two successful summers in business, Avalon was struck by Hurricane Sandy, putting Per Lei three feet underwater. Everything was ruined, but the positive manifestations continued, and we renovated and reopened the following summer. Unfortunately, the Avalon store closed shortly after, with its lease no longer available for renewal due to the building being sold.
At this point, many business owners would throw in the towel and call it a good run, but we’re not the kind of folks to give up.
We went back to a single Per Lei within Bruce’s menswear store and focused on the brand’s eventual expansion. In 2017, I noticed a void in the women’s boutique industry, leading to the creation of Stile by Per Lei (Stile = Style in Italian).
Per Lei carries high-end women’s contemporary goods, but I decided the high-end shopping experience should not just be for those that can “afford it.” That year Stile by Per Lei opened its doors 10 minutes down the road from Per Lei to provide a high-end boutique experience for women without the high-end price tag.
In February 2020, Stile closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t reopen for three months. During this time, we decided it was time for Stile to grow by one more and took a risk believing that “everything would work out.” In August, Stile’s second location opened its doors, and some thought we were crazy, but just six months later, we opened Stile number three!
Now we’re excited to expand to an e-commerce site, giving women across the country the ability to enjoy the Stile experience without visiting us in person.
Owning a small business is all about taking risks and manifesting that things will work out. When something feels right, you just need to go with it because if you give up when things get hard, you never know what you may miss!
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our very special brand. Enjoy your shopping!