Nancy Rineman, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, August 26, 1999
[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News.]
[Atlantic News Photo by Nancy Rineman]
HAMPTON -- After being a virtual landmark for children's clothing for 27 years, Nancy and Bob Gordon, owners of the Bib 'n Crib and the Prep Shop have announced that the Prep Shop will soon be closing its doors.
Nancy Gordon said the decision to close the store, which is geared to girls' 7–16 sizes, as well as boys' 8–20, has come about as she and her husband are "trying to get retired," and are scaling back their business interests in an attempt to reach that goal.
While customers may be seeing a noticeable depletion in stock in the Prep Shop, and signs will eventually be displayed to advertise the closing, Gordon emphatically stressed that its counterpart, the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe, is not closing.
"The Bib 'n Crib is up for sale," Gordon said, adding that her hope is that the specialty children's shop will be sold as a going business, thus retaining its present name. Gordon said she also hopes to sell the building first, as it has been on the market since January 1999.
"We have the best location, right on Route 1," Gordon said of the two-level business block which consists of six apartments above the four street-level storefronts, immediately south of the High Street intersection.
It would appear that Gordon comes by retailing naturally, as her father was manager of W. T. Grant stores in many areas of the country. Born in Yonkers, NY, her family made several moves around the United States, from Newark, NJ, to Louisville, KY, on to Kalamazoo, MI, and then Grand Rapids, MI. From there the family eventually moved to Portsmouth just in time for Gordon's high school years.
Gordon was with her mother in the business in Hampton for 11 years before buying it from her in 1973. Two years later, her husband, Bob, took over the former Hampton Bootery, renaming it Gordon's Shoe Store.
Then, in 1981, they bought the building. At that time, Gordon noted, the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe had children's clothing all the way up to size 20. Realizing that older children were reluctant to be brought into a store offering baby and toddler apparel, Gordon started the Prep Shop as a boys' store before it evolved to its current mode offering larger sizes, to both boys and girls.
"Its been a very happy, enjoyable business," Gordon said of the Bib 'n Crib. "It has been extremely good to us."
"Some people actually plan their vacation around our summer sales" she said, adding that recently one family started from their home in New York in the very early hours of the morning to be in Hampton at 8 a.m. for the start of the Sidewalk Sales.
"I have a wonderful, little clientele, Gordon said. It's such a wonderful, enjoyable business."
"I have some very long-time employees," Gordon noted. "Some have been here 10 to 12 years, another for 16 years."
Moving from one clothing rack to another, Gordon pointed to the seemingly overflow stock within the Bib 'n Crib, with its new merchandise for fall and winter already in place.
"The Bib 'n Crib is moving forward: Gordon said. "It's not closing."
Gordon said she and her husband would eventually like to be spending six months of the year here, and six months in a warmer climate. Arizona was mentioned as a possibility, since Gordon's sister lives there, while her three brothers live in California.
Gordon's activity in Hampton has definitely not been limited to the world of retailing. She has enjoyed volunteering in community work, and is on the board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, as well as being co-ordinator of the Seacoast Women's Network and a member of the Rotary Club.
Nor have her working hours at the Prep Shop and the Big 'n Crib Shoppe been confined to regular business hours. For years, Gordon has done "plenty of fashion shows," usually twice a year with each new season, using customers' children as models. And her successful businesses have taken her on buying trips to New York as well as the merchandise showroom in Massachusetts.
The fruits of her labor are obvious, with everything from soft, cuddly baby bunting to the stylish coats, hats and dresses for little girls. From playwear to special occasion dressing, Gordon has made sure her store caters to every need. Always an extremely popular spot for baby gifts, the Bib 'n Crib offers the latest in toy trends, stuffed animals, and designer dolls, as well as silver-plated baby cups and lamps for the nursery, to mention just a few. And in addition to an attentive sales staff, gift wrapping is available.
Another popular feature of the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe greets shoppers before they even enter the store. Gordon's window trimmer, Joanna Flynn, the stores "display lady" for 14 years, has created window displays every month that continue to catch the eye of passing motorists and pedestrians alike. Sesame Street characters liven up the windows for back-to-school days, and it won't be long until the store's fabulous LGB train exhibit will once again be heralding the coming of the holiday season.
Right now, Gordon says she is just taking one day at a time. It's been a little hard on me, emotionally," Gordon said of the decision to close one store and sell another.
And what is her best memory of her years at the Prep Shop and the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe?
"Seeing customers come back as grandmothers buying for their grandchildren," Gordon responded.
"We're working on the second generation. I get a big kick out of seeing my old customers" she said.
While Nancy Gordon says she plans to continue her volunteer work, as well as taking up golf, her husband, Bob said he'll wait until his retirement really happens before deciding what new interests he might pursue. His best memories of Gordon's Shoe Store will always be taking care of the little kids and watching them grow up."