Saratoga County

Bucking economic climate, store goes for big expansion

Despite the sluggish economy and a gloomy retail outlook, Susan Hoffman has opened a large addition

Despite the sluggish economy and a gloomy retail outlook, Susan Hoffman has opened a large addition to her Wit’s End Giftique on Route 9.

The 10,000-square-foot addition took 14 months to complete and nearly doubles the size of the popular shopping venue that can be seen from the Northway.

“It’s a difficult economic time, but it’s what people kept asking for,” Hoffman said about the business she has owned and operated since 1975.

The addition allows Wit’s End to offer, for the first time, men’s and women’s clothing in a variety of high-end brand names from around the world.

The existing part of the store has also been renovated in a project that cost well more than $1 million.

“In this economy, it gives people a boost, something fun, something theatrical, quality gifts,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said she opened Wit’s End 37 years ago. Her father, Paul Hoffman, built the store for her. This is the third expansion, and Wit’s End now has 25,000 square feet of shopping space.

The general contractor for the project was BBL Construction Services of Albany. “They have done a seamless job,” Hoffman said.

Wit’s End has hired and trained more than 30 new sales associates and added 13 cash registers and five new checkout points. The business now has more than 75 part- and full-time employees.

The new clothing and accessories area has a theme of Fashion Around the World. A theatrical designer created a catwalk 12 feet off the floor that spans the fashion world from east to west.

“I love the dramatic, flair and fun, and that’s what I’ve tried to capture with a theatrical impression of Fashion Around the World right here at Wit’s End,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I want Capital area residents to know that when they bring their visiting family and guests from other parts of the country to Wit’s End, that they will all be fascinated by something here and have a good time.”

The exterior of Wit’s End has always stood out to travelers on the Northway, with a large American flag and huge toy soldiers all brightly illuminated after dark.

Hoffman said the entire store has been outlined in LED lights and is now equipped with a computerized light board that will enable it to change lighting effects from season to season.

Wit’s End has always been known for carrying imported, hard-to-find brands and these have been expanded. The new fashion lines include Blue Willi’s of Denmark (men’s and women’s clothing), St. James of France, Icelandic and Ilse Jacobsen.

Hoffman has found a niche that attracts shoppers, despite the difficult economic climate.

Lisa Schroeder, owner of the Clothes Horse at 396 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, has also found a niche. Clothes Horse has been in business for 35 years and continues to find success.

“Our sales have been higher this year,” Schroeder said. “It’s surprising, but we have worked very, very hard.”

Schroeder said she wishes Hoffmann well in her new venture. She said Clothes Horse also offers the popular Vera Bradley line that Wit’s End sells.

Schroeder said she has gone online with a “web store” in recent years and this has done really well.

“We are shipping

all over the world,” she said. “We have been around a long time and have really loyal customers.”

Schroeder said she has added staff in the past year to provide better service to her customers.

Categories: Business

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