Candice Caprice, owner of Stile by Per Lei, grew up in a small business family and was always intrigued by the ins and outs of business. She went to college for event planning which allowed her to study abroad in Italy – a place that would later inspire the names of her two boutiques. Shortly after graduating, Candice found herself working at a menswear store answering the phones, bagging alterations, and learning the operations of a small business retail store. The owner, Bruce, who eventually would become Candice’s husband, had been working at the location since he was 18. After purchasing 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, Candice knew she wanted to open a store of her own, and asked Bruce if she could rent 500 square feet of his store to give the men’s wives a place to shop under the same roof with the addition of women’s contemporary goods. When buying for the men’s store, Bruce always saw the excitement coming from the women’s shows and decided the women’s business was something he wanted to be involved in as well. Together, they 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 at the time including Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexis Bittar, and Rebecca Taylor. Shortly after opening, Candice and Bruce were faced with the 2008 recession forcing them to compete with big retailers that largely discounted all of their merchandise. With a year in business, this was an obstacle they could have never planned to face, but they did not let the positive morale of the new business drop due to the recession. Candice believes in manifestation and putting positive energy into the universe, and this first major roadblock did not stop her from believing in the future of their business.
One of the most rewarding parts of owning a business is watching something that started out small (500 square feet to be exact) grow over time. With Bruce’s years in business and Candice’s 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. After two successful summers in business, Avalon was struck by Hurricane Sandy putting Per Lei three feet under water. The merchandise, fixtures, and location were ruined, but the positive manifestations continued. The store was renovated and reopened the following summer, and Per Lei continued to expand down the coast of the Jersey Shore to Sea Isle. Sadly, Sea Isle unexpectedly was not a “shopping town” like Avalon, and the lack of business caused this location to close its doors after two summers in business. The Avalon store unfortunately 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 Candice and Bruce are not one to give up. They were back to a single Per Lei within Bruce’s menswear store and continued to focus on the eventual expansion of the brand. They knew operating multiple locations was something they could handle, and they weren’t counting out the idea expansion in the future. In 2017, Candice 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 Candice 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.
Candice welcomed her first daughter the year Stile opened, and she knew it was time to build the team that would help her grow the brand. She manifested the perfect team, and in 2018 Candice met Alleigh, a fresh college graduate willing to help unbox and steam merchandise while she worked on adding a second certification before finding a teaching job. Alleigh had worked in a small business boutique since she was 16 that gave her much more experience than she had realized. Buying in New York, participating in the design/manufacturing process in Bali, and merchandising/selling the product was something she found fun and excited to be included in, but never thought about the potential of it becoming her career. In the same way Bruce saw something in Candice out of college, Candice saw something in Alleigh and felt out of all the years in business “this is what I’ve been waiting for”. Alleigh slowly started helping Candice with more and more and soon fully immersed herself into the world of Stile, deciding to leave the intention of becoming a teacher behind.
Working together, Stile has grown so fast since the first location opened in 2017. Candice has always said she eventually wants fifteen Stile locations. There is no reason for this number, but for some reason the phrase “I want to open 15 Stile’s” continues to slip out of her mouth. There was no plan for expansion this fast, but as you may have gathered by now, Candice is pretty good at manifesting positivity when faced with a roadblock. On February 15th, 2020 Stile closed for what was expected to be two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t reopen again for three months. During this time Candice, Bruce, and Alleigh decided it was time for Stile to grow by one more and took a risk believing that “everything would work out”. August of 2020, Stile’s second location opened its doors, and some thought they were crazy but shortly after Stile number three opened just six months later. The Stile team is excited to expand to an e-commerce site, giving women across the country the ability to enjoy the Stile experience without physically visiting one of the locations. 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 …