A Q&A with Helen Chase from Trillium Fine Clothing for Women
For more than 20 years, Helen Chase has been the sole owner of Trillium Fine Clothing for Women in Mount Pleasant. She spoke with Great Lakes Bay Magazine on what it means to be a small-business owner and the importance of local support for local businesses.
How did you get started in business?
I started at the store as a part-time job, I was a Central Michigan University student at the time who needed a summer job. I liked the store; and by the time the owner sold it to another gentleman, I was managing the store. He owned the store for seven years and decided it wasn’t for him, and in ’81 I bought it with a partner. In ’99, she retired, and I had it by myself.
What kind of fashion do you feature?
We are a full-line store and sell anything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses. We feature a wide age range, along with accessories and cosmetics. We try not to do fast fashion, where people keep things for only a short period. We want people to be happy about a purchase and keep it for a while.
What does a day in your life look like?
Each day varies, I never know when it will be busy or not. We always start the day with cleaning and organizing, but now there is a new level of cleaning with the pandemic. We make sure the store looks attractive, change window displays or price new merchandise. There are all sorts of backroom things that need to be done for our customers, who come first, last and always. I keep up on orders that need to be completed and Zoom meetings for markets because most showrooms have moved to virtual. I try talking to people and finding out why they are here. Different people want different levels of service. This business is about relationships.
Why do you think it is important to shop local?
It supports the business structure that is in your town; it keeps the businesses here. They are owned by people who are committed to the community and not the corporation. Locally owned businesses are your neighbors; they go to your schools or churches. Those local business owners are the first to give back and support the community. These local businesses also donate to local events. Most of these local businesses are single-unit businesses and do not have the support of other locations to keep them open, so they need the support of locals to keep them in business.
Anything you would like our readers to know?
We care about our people; we care about our supporters and love being a part of their lives. We have a long history since the store was opened in 1947. We have generations of families that have shopped here, and we feel that we are a part of their lives.