During these tough economic times, so many businesses are lucky to survive a few years in the retail trenches, but for one Bermudian fashion icon, her store has flourished for 45 years.
27th Century Boutique is owned and operated by Sharon Bartram, was founded on June 8, 1975 by Mrs. Bartram’s late husband, Kirk.
Initially a men’s clothing store, seven years later, Mrs. Bartram decided to leave her banking job to join her husband.
Mrs. Bartram says she’s loved fashion for as long as she can remember. She laughs as she says she thinks fashion runs through her veins—her mother, Enith Zuill was a well-known dress maker for many years.
Although the shop has moved a couple of times since its inception, it has called its current location on Reid Street extension home for the past 15 years.
Reflecting on the longevity of 27th Century, Mrs. Bartram attributes it to the exceptional service her customers receive when they walk through her doors.
“I work with my customers. I get to know them and what they like and what I think will look good on them. I even take them into consideration when I’m overseas on buying trips. I always have them in mind because I want to give my customers personalised service.
“I can look at you and know what will make you look good. I select items that I know will accentuate their shape and size. At times we have customers who come in and know what they want, but it’s not always flattering, but we will help them see what’s best for them.”
In 2017, 27th Century Boutique, which is managed by Mrs. Bartram’s niece, Karla Preece, was recognised with a National Service Standard Award by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
Admitting she is contemplating retirement, Mrs. Bartram says her customers have asked her to keep going. But like many businesses on the island, 27th Century has been affected by the pandemic and she’s not sure that business can return back to normal.
“I was feeling good but the corona virus has made me feel uneasy as business is very quiet at the moment. People are saying be patient and it (sales) will return but I’m not so sure. We survived the recession, but it’s quieter than those times with so many people out of work.
“I did try online sales during this pandemic but people ended up having to exchange items because they did not fit. With the level of personalised service we offer, I don’t feel online sales will work as well.”
Looking back at the decades of dedication to the retail industry, Mrs. Bartram reflects, “I feel good that I’ve given something to Bermuda for so long. I have clients who I’ve had for 40 years and now their children come here. It’s such a good feeling.