Happenings in the Hills

Happenings in the Hills

Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

J. Seitz & Co. Turns Thirty 

For thirty years, Joanna & Bill Seitz—and more recently their daughter Amanda—have been bringing us a curated selection of stylish goods to live by. Happy Anniversary!

When Joanna and Bill Seitz bought an old garage thirty years ago and opened their shop, they knew what they were doing. The location on East Shore Road in the quaint village of New Preston turned out to be the perfect setting for the lifestyle emporium they envisioned. Thirty years later, the business is still going strong. J. Seitz & Co. is Litchfield County’s premiere specialty store that offers a distinctive and carefully chosen selection of furniture, antiques, home decor, woman’s and men’s apparel and accessories, jewelry and gifts for babies and pets. And we can’t live without it.

Keeping a business running for 30 years is quite an achievement, and staying in the same spot is also a feat in itself. The key to their success? Loyalty from their clients—as far afield as England, Italy, France, Sweden, as well as those from Litchfield County and Manhattan. Another factor in their success: refreshing merchandise regularly. “If you don’t evolve, you don’t succeed,” says Joanna Seitz. “We knew when to evolve and how often enough to keep our clients curious and coming back.” And finally, the Seitz family feels very lucky to be in such a great community. Most of the shops are owner-run which explains the longevity of the businesses. The Village Strolls organized by the shop owners bring so many people to the neighborhood. And we musn’t forget the lure of that stunning 40-foot waterfall as it cascades into the river behind the shops.

In the beginning, it was more like a general store, with a Santa Fe style, and over the years it has become an emporium of goods with a wide selection of distinctive merchandise. Their main focus now is women’s fashion and home furnishings.

Home furnishings at J. Seitz can be defined as modern country and rough luxe style… sophisticated and rustic elegance with an authentic and unique lifestyle approach. Their staff designer, Linda Anthony, offers a complete interior design service for clients from a room to an entire house. She can help select window and floor treatments, upholstery fabrics, and accessories as well as assist in furniture decisions.

The lower level of the store is where Linda works amidst a beautiful and serene collection of sofas, coffee tables, and accent pieces in rich greys and soft linens—a blend of neutrals that compliment each other. One feels instantly relaxed in the space, which is what we want in our homes. The store carries a fine selection of furniture from Mitchell-Gold, Cisco Brothers, and John Derian. Most of their furniture is artisan-based. “The furniture from Cisco Brothers is like custom furniture without the custom price,” says Joanna. They also stock antiques from France, Italy, Belgium, Amsterdam and Antwerp.

The Seitzs’ secret to sustaining their business through through numerous recessions, the tragedy of 9/11, and so many ups and downs is their ability to respond and to turn on a dime under those constraints. Joanna points out that as the world has changed, they have kept their store relevant to the times. “You can’t just buy pretty things. You have to know how to run a business.” Indeed, having business savvy and an eye for design are Joanna’s strengths. With a background in retail management from F.I.T., and immersing herself in business courses at NYU, she has a brilliant combination of both skills. Her career as a magazine editor and stints in the world of fashion PR brought her to this next level. It’s not surprising that the store was named one of the Top 50 Shops in the US by Home Accents.

Joanna’s husband Bill is her sounding board and a great source of support. He is a former professional interiors and design book photographer. He manages the warehouse inventory part of the business and oversees the transport of large items. Bill also plays an important role when they are traveling as he speaks fluent French. Joanna and their daughter Amanda, who also went to F.I.T., are in charge of the visual merchandising of the store. They work well together, it is a collaboration based on each of their talents. When it comes to fashion, they spend a lot of time with new designers, as they select an ease of silhouettes and styles for any age, whether one is in their 20s or 80s. It’s a mother-daughter thing. The same clothes and accessories make it age appropriate.

The men’s corner, as they like to call it, is smaller but stills packs in some great fashion items for guys. They carry Billy Reid, a very popular designer from Alabama. He was off the radar until he won the award for fashion design. They also stock Hartford, a fashion label from Paris, Mason’s from Italy, and the designer Relwen whose clothes have a country-rugged look. The apothecary items and leather accessories make great gifts. The Corgy socks are from a well-known English sock line to the Royals.  And let’s not forget a unique selection of books sprinkled throughout the store.

A popular handbag line is the Matt & Nat line, which only uses vegan materials, something that means a great deal to folks in this area. And there is a line of rubber shoes, also non-animal products. The spectacular jewelry at J. Seitz & C0. is all artisan-sourced—there is no manufacturing involved. They offer diamond jewelry by Renée Shephard that is non-traditional. There are pieces made with recycled metals (again lessening the ecological impact), talisman-style, yoga-oriented designs that make meaningful and purposeful gift giving.

So, what is in the future for J. Seitz & Co.? Eventually, Joanna and Bill would like to semi-retire and hand over the reigns to their daughter Amanda. She will continue the legacy—the quality and feel of the store that we have all come to love. But it might be a while before that happens. Amanda just gave birth to her first child, so we can expect at least a few more years of Joanna and Bill presiding over the space, bringing those gorgeous home furnishings into our lives and finding such fabulous clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories to keep us fashionably comfortable, here in the country. As it says on their website: “You can be assured that you will always be both surprised and delighted at what you find under our roof.”

Congratulations to Joanna, Bill, and Amanda for an incredible 30 years of steadfast good business and good taste. There will be an open house at J. Seitz & Co. in October to celebrate the official anniversary. We wish them many more years of success.

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