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Family tradition survives, thrives

Cobblestone Cottage celebrated 25 years of business with giveaway Saturday

Posted: March 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Store manager Jamee Brandt, left, with her mother, store owner Kathy Allie, at Cobblestone Cottage, which is celebrating 25 years in business, in Valencia.

 

Family-owned and operated Cobblestone Cottage celebrated 25 years in Santa Clarita on Saturday by giving away six large gift baskets and a $250 grand-prize shopping spree to shoppers.

One of the original tenants of the River Oaks Shopping Center on Magic Mountain Parkway, Cobblestone Cottage opened in 1987 as an English-themed gift store, selling English imports and art. Later, the retailer became known for its home accessories, collectibles and fine art. 

Founder and owner Kathy Allie said she was 40 years old when she first opened her doors for business. Within three months, her husband left his heavy-equipment rental business and joined her at the store. He has since passed away.

“It was a success from the minute we opened the doors,” Allie said.

Reminiscing about the early days, Allie laughed and said the store originally only played classical music, and the dress code for female employees was dresses or skirts with hose and heels. Slacks were not allowed.

Impetus

Everyone thought the town had “hit the mother lode” when the Target and Mervyns stores opened, Allie said. The center was in business five years before the mall opened in Valencia.

“We now have a second generation of families shopping with us, who we first met while they were in their mother’s strollers,” she said.

She opened her store because she was feeling the “empty nest” syndrome as her children grew up and built lives of their own, Allie said. Two of her children were about to marry, and the third had almost completed high school.

“It was either go to work in the corporate world or start a business,” Allie said. “I came from a family of entrepreneurs, and with the encouragement of a girlfriend, I chose to open the store.”

The timing was good for Allie, as she didn’t have young children at home. She worked really long hours at the store for years, she said. But in the end, it all paid off.

“Newhall Land and Farming owned the shopping center at the time, and we had a very hard time getting them to lease to me because I didn’t have retail experience,” Allie said. “But afterward, the leasing manager said he was so glad he’d leased to me.”

After 25 years in business, Allie said she’s still very involved in the business that she “absolutely loves.”

Retail business

The retailer is open seven days a week, and to manage that schedule, Allie employs 20 people, mostly part-timers, she said. During the holiday season, she hires more.

Ten years ago, the retailer brought the Brighton and Vera Bradley lines of jewelry, footwear, apparel, accessories and handbags into the store to mix up the merchandise carried. The Brighton line, representing 15 percent of the products in her store, releases five new products per year, keeping abreast of current trends.

Cobblestone Cottage focuses on carrying apparel and accessory lines made in the United States, preferably even by California designers. All of the apparel lines carried in the store with one exception are made in California, and most in Los Angeles, Allie said.

Cobblestone Cottage has stayed in business by always evolving, she said.

“I love the search for new products. We go to all the latest gift shows, research and stay on top of trends,” Allie said. “People in Santa Clarita come to our store because we always have the latest trend.”

The continuous updating of merchandise, Allie believes, is what has allowed the store to survive.

“Other than last year, we’ve had an increase in business every year,” she said.

Family affair

Run as a family affair, Cobblestone Cottage has also employed children and grandchildren over the years. Allie’s daughter Jamee Brandt, whom she still works with today, was the first office manager.

A local resident since 1974, Allie’s children all graduated from Saugus High School, and in keeping with the tradition of a line of family entrepreneurs, another daughter owns a hair salon in Newhall, and a third owns a child care business in Texas.

As for working with daughter Jamee for so many years, Allie said the pair has learned to balance the work and personal relationship.

“We all get along so well. My daughter and I have never had a disagreement,” Allie said. “We love talking about business, but I have to be careful not to make business the only thing we talk about.”

jadkins@the-signal.com

661-287-5599

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