Following the sale of the Virtuous Vice chain of stores to Conglomerate Clothing by Chiara Villanova, Santa Ramona’s premier fashionable clothing store may eventually close. Chiara Villanova, Santa Ramona’s former Mayor, created the brand from her dorm room at Boston University, and it quickly became so successful that she s dropped out of school. In the ten years since, the brand has grown to a chain with locations in twelve states, including stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Las Vegas. But success is a double-edged sword. She ran the business full-time plus every single day of those ten years. Even when she was Mayor of Santa Ramona she would go home and make fabric choices or let the marketing department know which photo layout to run in which market.
She became burned out. As she put it, “it had turned from a passion into a prison”. Having just become a mother, she decided it was time for a change of pace. Because the sales contract with Conglomerate prohibits Ms Villanova from opening a fashion house for two years, she has returned to her roots and bought herself a bar, in this case Wolfe’s Tavern in Imperial Square. (Her family owned bars in the Boston area, and she has held a bar-tenders license since she was eighteen.) She plans to turn Wolfe’s around, selling seasonal drinks and beers, and offering an imaginative menu. Conglomerate Clothing will initially be keeping the brand name and all store locations. But their business model demands each store pay its own way. This implies that the store in Santa Ramona Valley will not survive. Although the Santa Ramona store – situated opposite the hospital and next door to the Chronicles’ office – did pay its way, its profit did not come from its sales. The store was, in reality, an add-on to the design studio, based on the second floor, which is where the money was made. Conglomerate’s design studios are in New York. Back in Santa Ramona Valley, Chiara Villanova will be doing private design work. That is allowed to her in the sales contract. But, being a new mother, she is not going to take work that will stress her. She is quite prepared to say no and send people to another designer.
Caring for a baby, a little private design work and running a bar does, nevertheless, seem like a lot of work even for a creative person.