THUNDER BAY -- Suzan Rochon’s specialty store, Perfect Fit Lingerie, is turning 12 this month. Rochon started the business after she moved back to Thunder Bay from Winnipeg and saw that there were no lingerie stores specializing in fittings and a wide range of sizes. She had worked at a friend’s lingerie shop in Winnipeg and had fallen in love with the business, and thought Thunder Bay could use one, too.
She opened Perfect Fit Lingerie on Red River in July 2007, then moved around the corner to the Ruttan Block on Court Street in 2011 after running out of space. With a long career in retail, selling lingerie was a “perfect fit.” “I’m working with women, I’m helping women, I’m helping people feel better, I’m selling, that’s what I love to do,” she says.
Her store carries bras from A to K cup, with bands from 30 to 48. All of her employees (two full-time, three part-time) are trained to offer professional fittings, and the fittings actually do not involve a measuring tape. “We take a look at you in the bra you have; it’s all visual. Tape measures aren’t really accurate. Some women have shallow but wider breast tissue, some have no breast tissue on the side but more out in the front,” explains Rochon.
“There are different brands for different breasts. Someone who is not very full-busted but their breast tissue goes wider, they have to wear a different shaped wire so that the wire is off the breast but still doesn’t leave a big empty space in the cup,” she says. Training staff takes a minimum of three months, she says. “Most women, if they haven’t been fitted before, wear the wrong size. It’s rare that we would put them in the size that they came in.”
The store sells not only lingerie but a wide range of clothing, swimsuits, underwear and clothing for nursing women and men’s underwear as well.
The business also offers mastectomy bras and prosthetics. Rochon is trained to fit those, and suggests that making an appointment for a fitting could be a good idea, to ensure that she can devote her time to the client exclusively.
Her clientele ranges in age from young women to octogenarians and older. “I’ve had daughters bring in their 90-year-old mother,” she says. Occasionally, Rochon even goes to nursing homes and seniors’ apartments to do fittings there, if a customer has mobility issues that prevent them from coming to the store. There is no extra charge for the service.
“One of the beauties of owning your own business is the flexibility,” she says. However, that flexibility should benefit the customer, not the business owner, she cautions. “It’s not that you can close early, but that you can open earlier or stay later.”
As a successful business owner and chair of the Waterfront District BIA for six years, Rochon has a few tips for running your own business. “Hire the right people, and hire a bookkeeper. And be open the hours you post. I know it’s tough, circumstances happen, but try and be open the hours you post.”
“The biggest thing is that we’re here to provide a service, and women will often feel better about themselves,” Rochon says. “It’s amazing what a good-fitting bra can actually do!”