SACO, Maine — On Friday morning, Simply You boutique owner Lori Irving greeted the steady stream of loyal customers who came into her Main Street shop, sharing happy memories of the eight years her store has been in business.
Amidst the laughter, chatter and hugs, there were tears, as Irving, her staff and patrons prepared for the closing of the store, which will happen by early August.
“I told myself I wouldn’t cry,” said Irving, wiping away tears from her eyes.
Closing the store was a difficult decision, said Irving, but after evaluating her situation in the spring, due to the economy, she knew it was what she had to do.
Irving has been a well-known face for local fashionistas for many years. Before opening her store eight years ago, she worked at Saco Bay Classics for 10 years.
Irving said she had planned to close in about a month, but with the response to her closing sale being so great, she said she expects to close next week.
Irving said “just by accident” all her employees are retired teachers, and she’ll miss her loyal and creative staff.
“I have the best employees in the state of Maine,” she said.
Irving said Saco and Biddeford Savings Institution has been a great landlord and neighbor, and staff from the bank shopped at her store to support the neighboring business.
She said she’ll miss her loyal customers, who, even if they weren’t purchasing anything that day, were always welcomed in to share “a smile and a story.”
“They’re like family,” she said. “We were the Cheers during the day, and Traditions [restaurant] was the Cheers during the night.”
One of these loyal customers is Debbie Dallaire, who said she started shopping at Simply You when it first opened, and became hooked.
“This woman has totally reinvented me when it comes to fashion,” she said.
Dallaire said Irving brought her style more up to date and “brought out a side of me that’s a little more wild.” Dallaire said Irving has great intuition when it comes to fashion, and always knows what will look good on a customer.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go now,” she said. “There’s no place in the mall like this.”
Mayor Mark Johnston, who owns Vic and Whit’s, a wine and sandwich shop down the street, described Irving as hardworking and said he looked up to her.
“She’s a dynamic, outstanding businesswoman who knows her trade,” said Johnston. “We’re going to miss her.”
Johnston said a women’s apparel shop is one of the essential parts of a downtown, along with a post office, bank, city hall and pharmacy. He said consignment shops are nice to have, but a downtown also needs a women’s boutique.
“There will be a hole in our downtown,” he said.
Saco Spirit Executive Director Nadeen DeSilva said that Irving was always very supportive and involved, active in the organization’s local fashion show and a former member of the board of directors.
She said Irving had high school interns and was a leader and a mentor, sharing her knowledge with others.
“I still see Lori as a successful downtown business owner, and I will always see her that way,” she said.
DeSilva said the community needs to rediscover the downtown, see what it has to offer and support it. If everyone in the community shopped in the downtown at least once a week, it would help the local business owners, she said.
Irving said she doesn’t know what she’ll be doing after the store closes, but she loves fashion and working with people.