An online startup retailer founded by two University of Virginia graduates is growing with its first physical address in Charlottesville.
Country Club Prep is open now on the Corner near UVA. It's the first brick-and-mortar store for a company that's getting national recognition.
Country Club Prep is one of 10 retail Touchpoints Channel Innovation Award winners this year along with companies like Sears and Toys-R-Us. It's a $5.5 million company today.
A century-old home on Elliewood Avenue houses the first County Club Prep store.
“It's a lot of color. It's a lot bowties, a lot of seersucker, a lot of madras. And it's a lot of fun,” said Watson, Country Club Prep cofounder.
Watson didn't study fashion - or business. He and his partner, Stephen Glasglow, graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2007.
“After 2007, we didn't fall in love with being lawyers. So, we said, ‘What do we know?’ Well, we went to the University of Virginia. We know preppy clothes,” said Watson.
They started the online Country Club Prep store in 2012. Watson's Atlanta home became the warehouse for American-made preppy products.
“The best thing you learn as a lawyer, I suppose, is how to talk. So, it was a lot of fast talking with a lot of established brands,” said Watson.
Country Club Prep's online sales have grown 600 percent each year.
“People wear this clothing nationwide. You put a store in one town, you're not going to reach that nationwide audience. So this gave us the opportunity to reach preppies everywhere,” said Watson.
It made sense for the Wahoos to come home for their first physical address.
“We wanted a headquarters. We also wanted an excuse to visit Charlottesville,” said Watson.
“There's still a lot of Polos and pearls, but it's also a lot of fun colors,” said Tia O’Neill, store GM.
O'Neill credits the cofounders for Country Club Prep's success so far.
“Their enthusiasm is what really grabbed me. The opportunity to get on the ground floor of something that has had amazing growth,” said O’Neill.
Watson sees the potential in preppy tradition with a twist.
“It's had a lot of staying power. What we try to do is make it irreverently preppy,” said Watson.
The store will have a grand opening party August 23 when UVA students return for the fall semester.
Watson says Country Club Prep plans to open several more stores. The website continues to process hundreds of orders daily, with a second warehouse opening soon.
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