Three years ago, Cleveland native Cori Imbrigiotta pushed a rack of clothes onto a small patch of sidewalk at the annual Chagrin Falls Sidewalk Sale and set up shop. Flash forward to 2015 and the 27-year-old is still there, only she's moved indoors, purchased a sign, and launched one of the region's most successful women's lifestyle brands and retail outlets with her business partner and co-owner Anne Rutter.
Since opening in March 2013, Haven Style House has become an epicenter for fashion and style throughout Northeast Ohio. A community experience more than a store, women flock in for the chic, classic inventory, but return time and time again for the style advice and warm, social atmosphere.
"A woman's style and body is a very personal thing," Imbrigiotta says. "We wanted to develop a space where women can feel comfortable and can interact with other women, with no pressure to buy." In other words: a haven.
Such a unique concept might flounder in other major metropolitan areas with high rent or a thirst for international couture, but Cleveland's love for local has given Haven the foundation and customer base it needs to thrive. "There's such loyalty here that doesn't exist in other cities," Rutter says. "It's so infectious and so rare and so invaluable to a shop like ours."
Word of mouth has been the duo's biggest asset, and it's not hard to see why. Spend 10 minutes in the store and just try to refrain from texting a gal pal about the Orange Street gem that feels more like a friend's carefully curated closet than a retail outlet.
Imbrigiotta and Rutter are the shop's lone employees, which means the women are both the CEOs and the ones who sweep the floor at night. "We don't have investors. We don't have employees. We do every single thing ourselves," Rutter says.
That includes putting on small events, like sip & shops or even bridal showers. "The majority of the time these parties are thrown by people we know or customers who've become friends," Imbrigiotta says. "They're proud of us and want to show us off to their friends. There's a real sense of comradery that's not always typical between merchant and customer."
While Rutter takes the lead on the majority of the marketing initiatives and Imbrigiotta handles the business side of things, both women come together to hand-select each item they debut in store from online and independent retailers.
"We gravitate toward the same pieces, but put them together differently," Rutter says. Both women describe their styles as classic and structured, Imbrigiotta being the edgier of the two. "The magic is in the mix," Rutter says. "When we come together, the result is always better two ways than one."