For Meghan Chambers, preparing for another opening day is all too familiar. In September 2010, she pulled an all-nighter when she opened Jellybeans in the Brentwood Center, and just 21 months ago she opened Staxx in the French Quarter plaza on East Republic Road.
“And that was just for one location,” Chambers says after arriving at the now side-by-side stores at 9:30 a.m.
Jellybeans, a clothing store for toddlers, is already leaving its Brentwood Center home to relocate next to Chamber’s 10-year-old upscale women’s store. May 16 is opening day for both stores at their new digs in the roughly $22 million mixed-use complex Farmers Park. And no matter how much was left to be done, the stores would open by 10 a.m. Friday.
The day before the grand opening, the 33-year-old mother of two daughters is a blur of motion, voice and hair. Her day starts where it would end – at midnight at Farmers Park. She didn’t leave Thursday morning until after 3 a.m., and wouldn’t fall asleep until around 4:30. In her southwest Springfield home, the daughter of local business icon and SRC Holdings Corp. CEO Jack Stack would hit snooze a few times before waking for good at 7.
Chambers has enough time for an 8-minute hot bath – she timed it – but no sit-down breakfast. There are emails to read, checklists to write and checks to pick up from the bank. The girls were up late visiting mom at the stores on Wednesday, so it was important she sneak away quietly before they wake.
“I just can’t leave if one of them is crying for me to stay,” says Chambers, who along with husband Neil Chambers of SRC’s Global Recovery Corp., lean on the help of nanny, Audra, and a team of relatives. Chambers is the middle of five children, and her girls know their cousins well.
At 9:30, her daylong battle to establish phone and Internet service at the stores begins as Chambers enters the door to Staxx with her smartphone in hand. Dressed in overalls and camo Ash shoes, Chambers tries to sort out what seems to her to be a blame game between Mediacom and AT&T. Her service date was set the week before (when the Chambers were vacationing at Disney in Florida) as May 20, and that wouldn’t work.
During the next hour and a half, the 5-foot-2-inch Chambers settles into her role as queen bee, answering questions on the color of fixtures and the height of shelves. She doesn’t sit until 11, just before a meeting with contractor Adam Pyle of Adam Pyle & Associates. Chambers says she is still sore from Wednesday and is committed to sitting some throughout the day.
After more talks about store layout and her security system, Chambers relaxes into lunch with her daughters and their cousins around 1 p.m. Her thick, black hair is pulled into a ponytail as she works in mom-mode, putting bracelets on her daughters and keeping the children from hiding playfully between racks of clothes.
The move to Farmers Park accomplishes several things at once for the ever-moving Chambers. It puts her two stores next to each other, making oversight and problem solving more efficient. Beyond convenience, she believes in the power of the progressive community to attract her customers.
“I believe in Farmers Park. This took two years of thought and planning and looking at traffic counts,” Chambers says. “Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion, but I’m more interested in running a business. That’s where my dad comes out in me, I guess.”
She says she reluctantly started sharing information about the firms’ financials with her employees a few years ago on advice from her father, who is known nationally for promoting open-book management. The move worked, she says, as employees began to look for efficiencies with new product lines after she began letting them see revenues, expenses, operating margins and the bottom line.
“They started asking, ‘What’s the return on that?’ and treating it like their own business,” Chambers says.
By 2:30, she’s headed to a storage unit near her home on a hunt for fixtures. Along the way, her friend and helper Gabe Jackson is answering emails on Chambers’ smartphone. Jackson, a former employee of Staxx who has moved to southern California to be a department manager at a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills, took vacation time to help Chambers pull off the store openings.
The pair don’t find fixtures, but instead spot a vintage chair and couch for the store.
By 4, Chambers is back at the stores and the battle to sort out Internet and phone systems wages on. By 6, the system is communicating internally, but it will be a few days before full service is in place.
As the sun sets, Staxx is looking complete and Chambers’ focus shifts to Jellybeans, where she hangs and sorts clothes until around 4 a.m.
Chambers says her mother – whom she compared to Mother Teresa and Oprah – told her recently she was proud of the work she had done to pull off the openings. But Chambers says that was premature.
“I’ll exhale when I unlock the doors,” she says, allowing room for a smile and some reflection. The demographics of the nearby ZIP codes had been studied, after all. “This was what I dreamed of as a little girl.”