Susie Duboe-Bryant is a third-generation owner of Hinsdale Furriers, which has been located in Hinsdale since 1952, although her grandfather began the business in Chicago in 1927.
Susie started as a part-time employee, became full-time in 1978, and purchased the shop in 1982. “I’m a tactile person,” explains Susie, “so I love the feel of them. I love my customers, many who have become my friends over the years.”
Her niece and shop manager, Melissa Waters, also started part-time in high school and college before joining the business for the long term. “I like that we’ve got that small family business feeling,” says Melissa.
Philosophy & Changing Times
“We’re honest with our customers,” says Melissa. “If someone has their heart set on buying something, but it doesn’t look good on them, we’ll tell them. And they appreciate it later on.”
“When I started, the fur industry was booming,” Susie remembers. “We’d go to the annual fur fair in Canada and on New York City shopping trips all the time. We couldn’t keep enough inventory in stock.”
Susie’s experience with economic fluctuations and changing attitudes about luxury items over the years would come in handy. When the economy began changing, she launched the store’s This Old Fur section to make furs available to a wider range of customers. “We take coats on consignment and sell them for great prices, making them affordable to more people,” she says.
“A lot of furriers have gone out of business but our store has evolved. Selling gently used furs just added another dimension to our business, and people obviously had a need for it because it keeps growing,” she adds. “We take in more and sell more every year. And our web business is amazing for This Old Fur.”
Other things have changed with time as well. “When I first started, the people that came in to shop were middle-aged and older women. They came in with their husbands who were buying them a coat. Now, our average customer is under 40 and buying her own coat.”
Fabulous Furs and More
Melissa is in the shop daily to cater to the tastes and styles of this younger generation of consumers. She keeps abreast of the latest styles and trends in fur, and makes sure Hinsdale Furriers offers a wide selection of furs for many age ranges and tastes—from classic to modern.
“Persian lamb is very popular again,” says Melissa. “Princess-style belted strollers from the ’70s are back, and so are stoles.” The store is showing lots of sheared mink—some casual and reversible and others fancier with crystal detail. Colored fur in reds and greens offer a fun alternative. And sheared beaver strollers are very popular.
“Wearing a fur used to be dressy and for special occasions only,” she explains. “But today’s woman is more casual and wants a fur she can wear every day.”
The shop also stocks many fur accessories such as hats, scarves, purses, headbands, and earmuffs. “And if we don’t have it, we can make it for you.”
Service, Formally Hers & Giving Back
Hinsdale Furriers is one of the few full-service furriers in the area. As an authorized fur care specialist by the Fur Council, their staff does all service on-site—including storage, cleaning, repairs, alterations, and remodels—in their second floor workrooms above the store’s showroom. They use customers’ “old” fur, like grandma’s mink coat, to make anything from pillows and throws to teddy bears that then also become treasured family heirlooms.
“If you want to keep your coat the longest, storing and cleaning it slows down the drying process,” says Melissa. “When a client calls to have their fur taken out of storage, we prepare it by brushing it and giving it one more check to make sure there are no missing rings or any minor repairs that need to be done.” Furs are stored in one of the shop’s two enormous vaults that are regulated precisely for the optimal temperature, humidity, low lighting level, and airflow.
Also on the second floor is the third arm of the business, Formally Hers, established two years ago. This upscale consignment boutique complements the fur business downstairs by offering select “After Five” evening wear, shoes, and purses for women, by designers such as Jimmy Choo, St. John, and Escada.
To give back, Susie and Melissa host charity events, such as Fur Fantasy nights on behalf of various not-for-profit organizations, donating 10 percent of the night’s sales to each cause.
So, go ahead, think about it…Don’t you deserve a fur this year?
Hinsdale Furriers, Formally Hers, and This Old Fur are located at 33 East First Street in Hinsdale. For more information, visit hinsdalefurriers.com, or call 630-323-1840.
—Words by Anna Hutton