Candidly Quarantined- Brooke + Bel Boutique
- What are your names and what’s your business?
Our names are Brooke Stowers and Samantha Belfer. We have a women’s boutique in Hoboken called Brooke + Bel.
- How did you get the idea to start?
We met as buyers in the Women’s Contemporary buying office at Saks Fifth Avenue.
After working together on the same team for two and a half years we developed an amazing chemistry as colleagues and became close friends. We balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly. We knew that together we could create something incredible that we could call our own.
We both grew up working at our local boutiques, studied fashion merchandising and began our careers at Saks. While we received extensive buying and planning training skills, after five years, we knew we found the perfect person to achieve our dreams with. Our vision was to take our buying knowledge and tailor it for the Hoboken community - bringing in elevated brands we love to shop and knew the Hoboken girl would love too.
- What’s the biggest Challenge of CoVid for you right now?
We planned to open our store in mid March which is exactly when the pandemic escalated to a degree that forced the government to shut down non-essential businesses.
Because our focus is community driven, it’s been difficult that we haven’t gotten the chance to open our doors and get to know our clientele. We’ve launched our website and are grateful for the initial love we’ve received through friends and family. But there is nothing that can compare to the personal experience we wanted to give when someone enters our space.
- What’s the biggest opportunity/insight you’re learning through this experience?
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst and make sure you have great business relationships with your vendors.
It is really beneficial for us to have opened our online store and started our social media presence. We worked hard so that both channels would be open at the same time, so we’re thankful we put in the extra work to get it up and running before this started.
Our Instagram presence alone has garnered us new local friends and partners! We are so hopeful that when we do open, people will be excited to be out and get dressed up for work and for fun again. That’s where our biggest opportunity lies. Lastly, it’s been emphasized so deeply that small businesses are the life blood of our economy. People are ready to champion and prioritize small local businesses like never before.
- What’s a typical day look like for you now in quarantine? What’s changed the most?
Sam: Brooke knows this but I am the queen of sleeping in. It’s been nice not having an alarm to wake up to. I’ll do an at home workout (my favorite online classes are by Melissa Wood Health or Peloton). It’s crazy because I’ve been working out so much more during quarantine than I did in real life!
If we have any orders to fulfill I’ll walk to the store (I live in Hoboken 6 minutes from the shop!) and mail our packages from the UPS across the street. My fiancé Eitan is the cook in our home so he’ll whip me something up to eat and we watch a show. Right now we’re watching Lost & UK Love Island (embarrassing, I know :))
Brooke: My life looks a little different these days— much slower than normal! My husband and I are quarantined on his family's farm in Virginia.
As soon as the shelter in place went into effect in Hoboken we packed the car with a bunch of our inventory and drove directly down here so we could have a little more space than our NYC apartment. We have a 7 month old puppy, so my day starts with her 6am walk with a coffee and feeding her. Then I run the length of the farm for a little exercise before I have a matcha and answer emails.
If I have inventory to mail out, I'll package and drop off at USPS in the afternoon or do my grocery run. I love to cook and I'm usually logged off after I start making dinner around 6pm. Sam and I are opposite, I'm an “early to rise-early to sleep” type, so around 8pm we'll watch reruns of The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm or read (I just finished 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - definitely recommend!) and we are asleep by 10:30. Luckily our puppy sleeps through the night with us now!
- What are some tips or advice that’s helping you through this time?
Staying positive may sound like a cliché but it’s really the best advice we could give. We are both naturally extroverted people so it’s easy to get down during a time where we are separated from friends and family. But doing little things each day to stay in tune with ourselves like working out or FaceTiming with friends can turn your day around and make it positive.
- What’s something people might not necessarily know that’s affecting your business right now?
There are major logistical hardships caused in this climate. In retail all of our orders are placed a season in advance. We have new deliveries hitting our store every 2-4 weeks, and many have to be put on hold until we can physically open. With this though, we are thankful for our wonderful partners. All of our brands have been willing to help during this time of need, whether it’s holding shipments, sending images to share on our social or just checking in by email to say hi and see how we’re doing.
- Can you share a profound moment that you’ve experienced during quarantine?
Sam: This was a year where many of my dreams were coming true and unfortunately have been put on hold. 2020 was the year where I opened my dream business and married my dream man. Although these life altering moments are now on hold, it made me realize how lucky I am to get to live out my dreams in the first place.
Brooke: The minute that we found out the shelter in place was in effect in Hoboken was the day our sign went up above our door - that was a really crazy moment.
We had been planning to open that weekend and we have been planning this for over a year with so many hurdles overcome along the way. We had just reached the finish line when it felt like the wind was taken from our sails. We were mentally prepared for that but it was just challenging to accept it. Although this is an unprecedented time with no roadmap of how to handle it the right way, I feel really blessed that all of my family and friends are healthy at this time.
You can support Sam & Brooke's dream business Brooke + Bel by shopping online here- BrookeandBel.com
They carry a selection of brands such as WeWoreWhat, LoveShackFancy, Nicholas, Levi's, Cotton Citizen, Joah Brown, Suburban Riot and of course- Electric Picks!