Star Shops of Georgetown: Mashburn Retail Therapy

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Ann and Sid Mashburn. | Photo courtesy Sid Mashburn.

Fashion is the Mashburn family business, and it just keeps growing, as evidenced by the brand’s new store in Georgetown. Husband-and-wife team Sid and Ann are behind the operation, and they bring every bit of their background — his in retail, hers in writing for fashion publications — to the new digs at Georgetown Court, with entrances on N Street and Prospect Street, and to their other stores in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.

Sid started young in retail, working at a shop outfitting men and boys in Mississippi, starting at age 15. After college, he says, “I tried to talk my dad into letting me go to design school but he laughed it off.” Sid continued in retail anyway, moving to New York and, ultimately, meeting Ann, a self-proclaimed Yankee and a young editor for Vogue and Glamour magazine. “You know the ‘Devil Wears Prada’?” Sid asks before blurting, “She was the Anne Hathaway character.”

Sid jumped from retail to design with a designer job at J. Crew, then a little-known start-up catalog brand operating out of New Jersey, in 1985. He went on to work for some of men’s fashion’s biggest names, designing for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Lands End. In those positions, Sid says he began to miss the intimacy of dealing with customers. “The DNA of being a retailer is in my blood,” he says.

He began to think more about starting his own brand in which he would not only design the apparel, but also tailor the shopping experience to customers wants and needs. “The concept has been a germ in his head since I met him,” Ann says.

Sid opened the first Mashburn store in 2007, offering a combination of self-designed-and-produced clothing and curated men’s style classics, in a sun-soaked space on the west side of Atlanta.

“The men’s concept was so different and so fresh, and it came as men began really taking time and care with what they wear,” Ann says, adding, “I give Sid a lot of credit for that movement.”

Ann’s concept for women came next. “The business wouldn’t be what it is without her, so we thought, ‘Let’s try it,’” Sid recalls.

The duo’s five daughters, who Ann left the professional world to raise, also had a say in expanding the family business. “The girls really pushed, telling me ‘You do so much work and you don’t get enough credit,’” Ann says. “Once we did do it, it was so creative and so satisfying. It was fantastic to be able to open a shop and figure out what I wanted to put with it. It’s basically like curating an editorial story.”

For Sid and Ann, Mashburn stores are where the rubber hits the road. After designing, manufacturing and curating items for their eponymous outlets, they have to display and sell them. And that’s where customer experience comes in.

“We love controlling the environment,” Ann says of the stores, before Sid adds, “When you come in, we love to treat you like you’re walking into our home.”
That means bringing in “really exceptional people,” Ann says. “I can put a ping pong table or scented candles or fantastic furniture in our stores,” Ann says, “but the customers’ first contact is with my employees.”

Sid describes Mashburn employees as kind and ambitious. “They want to take care of people and they desire the best,” he says. Ann injects, “They need to know about fashion.”

Commission isn’t a factor for sales staff at Mashburn, and Sid and Ann say that taking commissions out of the equation is for the best. “There’s no pressure on our staff to sell,” Ann says. “We can give you really great advice, and we’ll do it for nothing.”

On the clothing side, Sid and Ann have laid out a fairly simple mission: to dress men and women for every day of the week. Their inventory includes not only the basics, like comfy women’s sweaters and men’s button-down shirts, but also specialty jewelry and a wide collection of men’s dress shoes. “Once you see the mix,” Sid says, “it starts to make sense.” Touching on the brand’s demographics, Ann says, “We’ve got a few little things for everybody.”

Also included in every Mashburn store is an open-air tailor shop where customers can watch tailors customize their clothing in real-time. Sid says the tailor shop is “super important” for building a shopping experience. The Georgetown Mashburn shop will enhance that experience further in January. A Dancing Goats Coffee Bar is being built into the store’s extra space — where Neyla Restaurant once stood on N Street — and onto the building’s terrace that looks into the center of Georgetown Court.

“We want to make a memory,” Ann reiterates for the duo. “You can buy anything anytime anywhere online, but the edge we have is a sincere effort to make a memorable experience.”

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