Retailers fashion Pattern for growth

May 31st, 2007 - The Baltimore Messenger
By Larry Perl

A Roland Park couple is on "Cloud 9."

Randy Shayotovich and Priya Rayadurg own three Cloud 9 clothing stores, the newest of which opened this month in the Village Lofts condominium building in Charles Village. They plan to open a fourth store in Rockville in mid-June, and are looking at retail space in Waugh Chapel, Frederick and Annapolis.It's a chain in the making, and Shayotovich says he and his wife will keep growing the business as long as it is successful. "We´re always looking to keep going," he said. He would not divulge Cloud 9´s annual sales volume.

Cloud 9 specializes in funky clothes aimed at young women, but has branched into men´s clothing, too. The business will mark its 10th anniversary this July. Rayadurg handles the creative side of the business, including finding and buying the merchandise, and designing the displays. Her husband handles the financial side.

The first Cloud 9 store opened in the Towson Town Center mall in 1997, stayed until 2003 when the rent got too high, then relocated to the Can Company building in Canton, Shayotovich said. The next Cloud 9 store opened on the Avenue in Hampden in 2002 and stayed until 2005. It was a temporary site, Shayotovich said. "Hampden did fine," he said, but "the plan was always to move to Charles Village." Another store opened in May 2004 in Belvedere Square, where the couple also owns the clothing store Sweet Papaya. It specializes in clothes for mothers as Cloud 9 caters to daughters, he said. The couple is trying to grow that store into a chain too, he said. There was one dud, Shayotovich said: a Cloud 9 in White Marsh that lasted one year. He called it "a failed try." The former Cloud 9 in Hampden is now at Village Lofts, 3201 St. Paul St. "Canton is our number one store," Shayotovich said. But the Charles Village store has the potential for greater sales volume, because of its location near Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, as well as affluent north Baltimore neighborhoods, he said.

"I think Charles Village could outperform Canton pretty soon," he said. Shayotovich said he´s not concerned that the condo building, which opened earlier this year with 68 condos, is only 25 percent filled, and that the developer, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, is behind schedule in building the Olmsted, a complex with stores, condos and a garage across the street. "I'm somewhat disappointed that it's going to take another two years until the other side is done," he said. "It would draw more people." But he added, "I'm amazed at how much foot traffic there is" at the Village Lofts store, which is next to a Chipotle chain restaurant.

Up to now, Shayotovich and Rayadurg have hitched their wagon to Struever Bros., which also redeveloped Belvedere Square and the Can Company. But they´re spreading their wings beyond Baltimore and Struever Bros in June, when they plan to open a Cloud 9 store in Rockville Town Square, a shopping center owned by Federal Realty. "We're actually at a very interesting point," Shayotovich said, mindful that they are leaving their comfort zone in Baltimore. "That (Rockville) store will test our management skills," he said. He figures that if they can make it there, they can make it almost anywhere, perhaps out of state and nationwide. Cloud 9´s growth as a chain has been so brisk that developers of other shopping centers and malls are calling. "Every developer has our name now," Shayotovich said.

Their goal, he said, is to "keep expanding at our regular pace." He has another possible scenario in mind, though. He remembers that Chico´s FAS, Inc. in 2003 purchased the White House/Black Market chain of 103 women´s clothing stores, which was founded in Baltimore in 1985. Chico's paid $90 million, according to its Web site. "I wouldn't mind that," Shayotovich said, laughing.

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