“The same thing, just more of it.”
That is what Jan Forman felt her customers wanted from The Jeans Whisperer store in Historic Leesburg. That is exactly what she plans to offer at her new location, which celebrated its grand opening today (Oct. 17) in One Loudoun.
“The timing was right,” Forman said. “I love Leesburg, but my lease was coming up and I started thinking about how I really needed more space. The business has kind of grown organically over the years, and I always just took it one step at a time. I realized to myself that it was time to go for the whole, grand vision. I talked to some of my customers and told them I was thinking about moving to One Loudoun and 95 percent thought it was a fantastic idea.”
The One Loudoun store has 1,300 square feet of selling space – almost double what Forman had in Leesburg. Tucked between B One Loudoun restaurant and Wishing Tree short-term child care, Forman said she expects foot traffic to help add to her clientele.
“It has more space in a great location,” she said. “It has great parking and is surrounded by great restaurants. A lot of people already come here to eat, or buy books at Barnes & Noble or to get their hair done.
“I’ve been to three different markets – in Las Vegas, Dallas, and Atlanta – to try to find the most unique and special clothing for my grand opening. I worked with an awesome architect, who helped me transform my vision into reality. I wanted the store to have a Southwestern feel, with the smell of wood and leather. I feel like I was able to accomplish that. Now, I’m just waiting for the customers to come in and I hope they will respond.”
As if following a script, Lori March of Lansdowne became Forman’s first official customer on grand-opening day. Forman and March exchanged warm, familiar greetings.
“Shopping (at The Jeans Whisperer) always feels personal,” March said. “The first time I went to the store in Leesburg, I thought I would just walk in and try on a pair of jeans. She hand-selected specific ones and I ended up walking out with three pairs of jeans that are still my favorites. When I got married, it was in the woods in Lovettsville. I knew I wanted to wear cowboy boots, and I got those here. She even sold me that cowboy hat I wear to all my country concerts.”
Forman said the Southwest theme evolved along with her sales spaces. Long before the 1,300-square-foot store in One Loudoun, she began with a much smaller space – the trunk of her car.
“I used to travel around doing trunk shows and junior league shows,” she said. “For the closer events, like North Carolina, I would just put everything in my trunk and drive it there. When I went to shows out in Wyoming, I would ship the merchandise there.”
Forman said the move from just selling jeans to adding boots, hats and Western-style jewelry was inspired by one of those trips to Wyoming.
“I was doing shows out west and I just fell in love with that whole vision,” she said. “I wanted to bring it here to the Virginia area because I didn’t see it any place.”
She also picked up the nickname that became the name of her business during a trip to Wyoming.
“I had a booth and I had all these jeans,” she said. “A lady came in and said, ‘I have never worn a pair of jeans because I could never find anything that fits right.’ I gave her three pairs of jeans and she said, ‘You are wasting your time.’ She came out wearing the first pair and said, ‘Oh my god, you must be some kind of jeans whisperer.’”
Forman, who spent 20 years in commercial real estate before her foray into denim, opened her first jeans store in Alexandria about 11 years ago.
“It was a short-term sublease so it wasn’t very expensive,” she said. “The prices started going up so I decided to move out to Leesburg, where the prices were better.”
“The first Leesburg store was in a small house in the historic district,” she said. “It was about 400 square feet with a side porch. It took off really well and people really seemed to respond.”
She quickly outgrew that store and, after two years, moved across the street to a location with 750 square feet of sales floor and another space about the same size for storage. Four years later and nearing the expiration of that lease, she began to look for the spot to fulfill her “grand vision.”
That spot turned out to be 20404 Exchange Street in One Loudoun.
“We look forward to having Jan and her concept add to the retail experience at One Loudoun,” said Andria Chatmon, marketing manager for One Loudoun. “It’s great to continue to attract local stores to the One Loudoun community. We want to be that combination of local, community-based stores mixed with regional and national retailers.”
Forman said her new store will continue to focus only on women’s apparel, at least for now.
“I have sold men’s jeans before,” she said. “The sales just didn’t match the amount of space it took. Men will walk in, usually with a wife or girlfriend, and they will say, ‘I already have a pair of jeans.’”
Forman said she expects her business to quickly grow into the new space by using what she has learned and her innate, somewhat intangible gift.
“I guess I just have a knack for fitting ladies for jeans,” she said. “The hardest thing for women to fit are jeans and bathing suits. That is how I have built my business over the years.”
The Jeans Whisperer is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 to 7 Thursdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit theJeansWhisperer.com.