Babs Richardson is closing the doors on her beloved Bearden boutique after 15 years. She’s put her heart and soul into her business, but now it’s time to let go. So, I’m saying a bittersweet goodbye to a very special place.
I first visited Betsy & Babs at its previous locations in Homberg and was charmed by Babs’ vintage Barbies who changed clothes with the seasons and even graced her Christmas tree one year, decked out in tiny holiday sweaters. I followed Babs to her latest spot in Colony Place, just down from Wok Hay. Babs has always sold clothing and accessories that make me happy: a whimsical evening bag adorned with silk butterflies, silver metallic platform wedge shoes, graffiti-print t-shirts and countless little black dresses. She steadfastly told me the truth about what fit and what didn’t, what worked and what didn’t quite work. And, over the years, she became a trusted advisor, a fashion counselor, a retail therapist. Every item of clothing I own from her store has a story to tell and memories folded into the fabric.
When my son was very small, Babs had a basket of picture books and toys to keep him amused while I shopped. Later, when I was working and rushing through on my lunch hour, Babs never batted an eye as I tried things on over my clothes in the middle of the store just to save time. Once I stopped in, and Babs wasn’t even there … in fact, the store was empty. I just grabbed an armload of dresses and headed for the changing room anyway. Ended up having to greet the UPS man and sign for a delivery.
One First Friday, she let me talk her into carrying a line of handbags on consignment and got them tagged, marked and merchandised the same day in time for her open house that very night. The only time we’ve disagreed on a darling dress, I had to beg her to let my boyfriend buy it for my birthday – Babs was not convinced it suited me, and she made no bones about it!
In short, Babs has got style. Her niche is modern/classic – clothes that fit women of a certain age, but don’t make us feel old. Babs has impeccable taste and a critical eye. She’s got the tact to tell her customers the truth. “We’re not just selling clothes, we’re building relationships,” she explained to her sales staff. And she meant it.
Sometimes Buddy was at the store greeting customers too. He’s the adopted little foundling dog Babs rescued from the streets in her neighborhood. She’s like that. She has a great big heart.
Babs is a creative soul with boundless energy. She’s an excellent cook and just published a collection of heirloom recipes and anecdotes entitled Gracious Living. It’s a book about friendship, family and hospitality. She wrote it as a surprise for her nieces, Emily, Connie and Katherine. Babs says the project brought her tremendous joy.
“To me, Gracious Living is not about what we have acquired – the possessions – but it is about giving generously of yourself to others. It is about generosity of spirit, kindness, gentleness, warmth, compassion and love,” Babs writes in the introduction to her book.
One Saturday night, Babs came to my house for dinner, bringing homemade yeast rolls made from scratch – a recipe from her cookbook – even though she’d worked all day in her store. In fact, she hadn’t taken a Saturday off in thirteen years. And she was the life of my party!
“I’ve had customers who’ve had three children since I’ve been clothing them. I had people get married, divorced and remarried, and I’ve been there through it all with them,” Babs reminisces with a sad smile, as she readies her store for closure.
Every business has its peaks and valleys, and Babs has decided to walk out of this valley to something new. But first she’s going to take time to breathe. Although she admits to being apprehensive about the future, Babs is excited about the possibilities. “I’ve felt restless before, but I’ve never done anything about it, because I was afraid. Now I’m pushing through the fear of what’s on the other side.”
Safe journey, Babs!