By Jeanne Davant
Safron of Manitou Springs
Location: 2511 W. Colorado Ave.
Loyal customers have gotten Safron of Manitou Springs through tough times, and not just because of their purchases.
They’ve become friends of the boutique’s owner, Safron Neusaenger, and some have even become volunteers at her new store.
Safron of Manitou celebrated its grand reopening Oct. 12 at 2511 W. Colorado Ave., once again offering Neusaenger’s personal selection of wearable art, vintage-inspired and artisan clothing, and unique accessories.
“We offer styles that make people look and feel good,” Neusaenger said. “We have nothing that’s anywhere else. If you’re that person who really likes to be original, we can help you with that.”
Her clients include “lots of artists, writers and people with a lot of social occasions they have to do.”
It’s been a rocky path to this point for the designer and stylist, who opened her first shop in 2003 at 116 Canon Ave. in Manitou Springs.
“I had a collection of truly vintage — 18th century to 1920s and ‘30s old laces, vintage linens, along with burnout silks and velvets and hand-embroidered pieces,” Neusaenger said. “Art to wear was my theme. That was the beginning, and it was tiny.”
As word spread about the shop, Neusaenger began to include made-to-order pieces in her collection. By 2006, she needed more room and moved the store to 720 Manitou Ave.
Safron of Manitou prospered, even during the economic downturn. She had her strongest year ever between October 2010 and October 2011.
“We were at our best during the early part of the recession,” Neusaenger said. “It wasn’t until the Waldo Canyon fire [in June 2012] that we really hit a wall. We never really recovered from that.”
Neusaenger had ordered her summer stock in February, paying wholesalers up to 35 percent up front. But after the fire, she said, “our business declined completely, by at least 70 percent.”
A small business loan helped her pay for inventory and basic expenses, but the store barely broke even.
“Things were just coming back to life when we were hit by the flood” of 2013, she said. The store was forced out of the building, which was damaged by floodwaters.
During the lean times, Neusaenger toiled part-time as a gardener.
“I was down and out, but I worked with Happy Cats Haven on a fundraiser” in May 2014, she said. “I had my girls dressed in vintage, and I worked on ironing and seaming every day. It gave me something to do.”
She tried selling online, “but I am just not that girl,” she said. “I’m a stylist. I like working with the person.”
After the fundraiser, Neusaenger set up a store in the studio behind her Manitou home.
“We put up racks and got stuff back from the people who had stored it for me after the flood,” she said. “I had a lot of people come who knew me and knew the store, and good clients from Denver, but no street traffic. I kept buying for my clients, but we needed a storefront.”
After several years of just getting by, Neusaenger and her associate, Erica Hardcastle, decided the time was right to open another store.
They wanted to be in Manitou but weren’t able to find a space. During a First Friday Art Walk in Old Colorado City, Neusaenger learned from her friends Liese and Kris Chavez at Chavez Gallery that a store across the street was available.
“I called the Realtor the next day,” Neusaenger said. “I saw it with my girls on Sunday and signed the lease the next Wednesday.”
“The girls” included customers-turned-volunteers like Hardcastle, who maintains Safron’s social media, and others who agreed to help out at the store. They painted, set up racks and displays, and held a soft opening in September.
“We are all loyal to Safron,” Hardcastle said. “We all love her and want to see her succeed so badly.”
“We did pretty well in September just from Facebook and Instagram,” Neusaenger said. “There were a lot of tourists.”
The designers and suppliers Neusaenger has cultivated over the years also have stood by her.
“I go to trade shows and markets that feature European clothes and work with people in New York that have a line,” she said. She sometimes asks the designers to modify the samples she views, and designers like Johnny Was guarantee that the items she chooses will not be offered to another store.
While some prices reflect the one-of-a-kind, high-end nature of the merchandise, Safron of Manitou also carries affordable items, including a line of cashmere socks.
“What I select is like no one else,” she said. “There’s always a market for what I sell, which is really different. That is why I’m doing this — to get beyond breaking even and to be a viable business again.”