November 30, 2006 – Vol. 42, No. 16
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Clothing chain opens up in Dudley Square

Yawu Miller

Like scores of Dudley shoppers who walked through the doors of the newly opened Ashley Stewart store on Warren Street Monday, Frederick Graham was just there to look.

The national chain, which caters to black and Latina women, stocks nothing that Graham would wear. But Graham peeked in anyway.

“It’s new and it helps our environment,” he said. “It’s going to bring more jobs in the community. It’s always good to see a new businesses in the black community.”

The store, which opened last Tuesday, is the first national clothing chain to open in Dudley. It’s also the first national chain catering primarily to black and Latina women to open in Boston.

The store is competing against local stores like New York Fashions that sell urban-themed clothing. But Dudley Square Main Streets Director Joyce Stanley says Ashley Stewart provides merchandise that doesn’t appear in many of the local stores.

“Most stores sell either church clothes or evening clothes,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of everyday women’s clothes. We’ve always wanted a better mix of goods here. I think this will bring more people to Dudley.”

The new store occupies the first floor of the newly constructed 30,000 square foot Warren Palmer building at the intersection of Warren, Palmer and Washington streets. The building, which opened in August, was built by the Jubilee Christian Church.

“We’re really excited that we’ve had a small part to play in the revitalization of Dudley,” said Matthew K. Thompson, president of the church’s real estate development corporation. “We’re rejoicing with the many agencies that helped turn Dudley Square around.”

Department of Neighborhood Development Director Charlotte Golar Richie said the new store is another milestone for Dudley.

“It’s a really good sign that they wanted to come to Dudley Square,” she said. “It signals that the revitalization of Dudley Square is really taking hold.”

The store’s large picture windows reveal racks of sweaters, wraps and jackets in fall and winter colors. The clothes are affordable and suitable for office wear. Jeans and sweaters start at $19.99. Winter jackets sell for $39.

Employees at the store say it has seen brisk business in its first week.

Ashley Stewart was founded in the early ’90s and has 200 stores located in major cities throughout the United States. Its flagship store is on 125th Street in Harlem. Its parent company, Urban Brands, also owns the chain Marianne.

Stanley said the store should do well in Dudley Square.

“We have 4,900 office workers within a one mile radius of Dudley and 2,500 people working in the immediate area,” she said. “They have a nice storefront. It’s well laid out and it’s welcoming.”

A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday. The festivities are set to begin at 10 a.m. when Mayor Thomas M. Menino cuts the ribbon on the store with Ethan Shapiro, president and CEO of Urban Brands, the parent company of Ashley Stewart.

JAM’N 94.5 will broadcast live from the store. Nationally acclaimed gospel singer Shirley Murdoch will appear at the store at 2:30. At 3 p.m. a fashion show is scheduled.

Also in Dudley Square Saturday, the annual Christmas Tree lighting will take place at 3 p.m. A children’s Christmas party will be held at the Dudley Library.

Free gifts will be distributed at the party, which is sponsored by the Lower Roxbury Safety Net, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Bank of America and the Boston Police Department.

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