Jessica Sokol and her business partner Sarah McBrair opened Saltwater boutique in Fairfield, CT just over a year and a half ago. The cozy shop offers apparel, accessories, and lifestyle for baby, kids, and mom all with a coastal vibe that perfectly suits the Connecticut community.
Before Saltwater opened, Jessica and Sarah both owned their own businesses. Jessica ran a successful online store, and Sarah was the designer of a popular independent jewelry brand. Jessica found Sarah’s company through Instagram and reached out to form a partnership. As it turned out, they both lived right in Fairfield, CT.
How Saltwater started “was so serendipitous, really,” says Jess. “Once we realized we live so close together, we held a pop up holiday event, and it really just took off from there.” Not too long after, they found a location in downtown right between a few other popular local businesses. It was totally unplanned, as Jess was seven months pregnant when she and Sarah opened Saltwater. But, “we found such a great location for foot traffic, being right by the train station and downtown,” says Jess.
“Moms are our main customer,” she explains. Though Saltwater reaches many of their new customers through Instagram, they still hold events “all the time,” says Jess. “We go on the road and partner with other retailers for traveling trunk events.” Saltwater also holds sip and make and sip and paint events that “always sell out.” Jess says, “We’re really popular for “Mom’s-night-out type of events, and we even host many private parties.” But Saltwater’s most “unexpectedly successful” ventures have been through “working with other local brands,” says Jess. “We’ve really developed a sense of community instead of competition.”
Jess says the service element that she and Sarah bring to the business is what makes it truly successful. “That’s something that is missing a lot of times,” she says. “But I think of our store as almost like an office space to everything else we’re providing.” For example, Jess regularly hand-delivers gift-wrapped items to shoppers in town. “Moms are so busy and don’t have time to get their kids in the car and come by the store. So just give us a call and we’ll wrap and drop off whatever you need.”
Saltwater also customizes and monograms just about anything in their store. For the summer, a popular item is their “Fairfield” baseball caps that customers have embroidered with their favorite local beach. “We also curate gifts for teachers, baby gifts,” and just about anything their local customer would need.
For the future of Saltwater, Jess says they’re focused on growing their own brand online and throughout the community. The jewelry in-store is handmade by Sarah and Jess, and all packaged with the Saltwater logo. In addition to developing more jewelry and accessories, Jess says they will continue to test new products and eventually start offering Saltwater products wholesale to other independent retailers.