This Westport Village boutique is a sanctuary for women seeking clothes that fit and gifts that delight. And then there are the shoes. Here’s how former stockbroker and mom of three Kelly Farmer turned a part-time hobby into a thriving, seven-day-a-week shopping destination.
Some women can’t slow down. After fifteen years as a stockbroker and five as a stay-at-home mom to children Cody, Sammie, and Camdin, Kelly Farmer decided she needed something to do with her downtime. “I was ready for something new,” she says. “I had a sales background and I’m a customer service freak… so I decided to rent a space in Middletown a few days a week. It just naturally evolved into a business.”
This little three-day-a-week venture which was located in two rooms of the historic Head House on Main Street quickly outgrew its location and schedule, prompting her to move to Westport Village in 2015 and staff up for a full seven days. “Tunie’s grew organically,” Farmer says.
“It became successful because I focused on ladies’ fashions.”
By “ladies,” Farmer means true women’s sizes with a real women’s fit; in other words, the oft-forgotten sizes in the fashion equation. “I’m not a junior cut, so I understand it,” she says. “All my buying is in ladies’ cuts. My clothes are going to fit real women including large and extra large.”
If that mission is sometimes made to sound un-fashionable, Farmer and her customers know that it isn’t. Her selection of stylish-but-wearable wardrobe essentials include classic Tyler Boe dresses; boho-chic Piya, cozy Dear John denim and comfy-but-cool Fly London and Bed Stu shoes and boots that could tempt fashionistas of all shapes and sizes. And her accessory displays could keep most mother-daughter duos enthralled for hours.
The atmosphere in her store is one of inclusion. “We have a lot of thirty and forty-year-old customers and we get teens with their moms, but my buying mind is for the forty to eighty-year-old women who have nowhere to go,” she says. “These are women who are used to shopping all day and finding nothing to wear.” Farmer’s focus on creating a feel-good environment where all women can find clothes that flatter has been rewarded with fierce customer loyalty in ever-increasing numbers. So much so that last spring she moved to an even larger corner space in the Village where she could bring her vision of a stress-free shopping experience to the next level.
This latest incarnation of Tunie’s includes every customer-friendly feature Farmer could incorporate. There are spacious and charming dressing rooms (complete with shingled peaked roofs) where friends can try on clothes together without being contortionists or taking an elbow. There are not one but two expansive shoes walls where women can browse and try on and take plenty of steps to test-drive the merchandise. And, of course, there are tables and tables of guilt-free, well-priced gifts and accessories.
To keep merchandise fresh and moving, she is using her original location in Westport as the Tunie’s outlet and to keep up with shopping trends, she recently launched a web site that’s enjoying steadily increasing traffic. “I have to evolve,” says Farmer.
Her bustling, friendly business is a wonderful tribute to the woman whose name the store bears— Kelly’s mother-in-law. “When I moved here from Texas, I had no one. Tunie raised my three kids with me and she is the classiest, coolest, most sophisticated lady you could ever meet,” says Farmer. “It was fun for me to put her in the spotlight.”