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Perennial Success

Over the last 30 years, times have changed— and so has The Tree House of Truckee, Calif. Keeping up with customer demands and market fluctuations has made owner Lindy Kramer’s store a popular one-stop shop for tourists and locals alike. Located just north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the 1,900-square-foot establishment has […]

Over the last 30 years, times have changed— and so has The Tree House of Truckee, Calif. Keeping up with customer demands and market fluctuations has made owner Lindy Kramer’s store a popular one-stop shop for tourists and locals alike. Located just north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the 1,900-square-foot establishment has become a staple in the city’s historic downtown area. After two location changes early on and the opening and closing of a second store, The Tree House has found its groove. It’s cream-colored walls with rust and periwinkle accents are reminiscent of a shop from the early 20th century. The special attention given to each customer by Kramer and her dedicated staff only adds to the historic feel.

The store currently offers boys’ and girls’ apparel in sizes 0 to 14, and over the years Kramer has expanded the assortment to also include shoes, toys, books and souvenirs in response to her shoppers’ desires. Since she sees lots of tourists who find her after long, weary hours spent in the car, Tree House keeps plenty of activity sets in stock. Similarly, Kramer gave dance gear a twirl after noticing the need. “We have a lot of ballet classes in the local area, so we supply ballet shoes, tutus and other accessories,” she said, noting that filling that niche—one that other stores in the area have avoided—has helped her bottom line.

Kramer credits Le Top as being one her most consistent top sellers since the store opened in 1979. Other quick-turning brands include Roxy, Quiksilver, See Kai Run and Biscotti, as well as a slew of outerwear brands stocked especially for area skiers. Though the newborn and infants department moves steadily, due in part to the fact that people are always buying baby gifts, she reported her largest and most well-trafficked section is girls’ 4 to 6X. On the flipside, boys’ 4 to 7 and 8 to 14 have proven to be her toughest categories, a fact she attributes to consumers’ tendency to shop large department stores to dress their boys.

Across the board, Kramer has found that her shoppers’ habits have changed over the years. “Maybe eight years ago, people were spending a lot—and often. Now, at every level of income, people are being careful about how they spend their money,” she said. This means one of her greatest challenges is making wise decisions during her buying trips to the San Francisco Mart, taking care not to overbuy and to choose products she believes will be homeruns.

With a transitory customer base, finding effective modes of advertisement have been a challenge, Kramer noted. Though radio has worked out the best, she relies most heavily on word of mouth to spread the message about the quality products and outstanding customer service The Tree House offers. Kramer credits much of her 30-year success to paying attention to her surroundings and patrons. “In the beginning, we moved the store twice because I knew we wouldn’t make it where we were,” she said. “We had to be where the tourists were.”
With the consolidation of her two stores in late 2009, Kramer hopes to expand her business to include online shopping in 2010 in response to numerous customer requests. She believes listening to customers and providing well-manufactured clothing are the main reasons her business is still around. “Our store stands out because they know we have quality, reasonably priced clothing. People say all the time that we have something fresh and different,” Kramer said. “We are like an old friend; people know what to expect.”

-Del-Ann Henry

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