Southeast Swimwear, a store "committed to fitting every customer and making the experience a good one," has just opened in Hamilton Place. Owner Gail Blackburn, who with her husband, Todd, opened the first Southeast Swimwear in Woodstock, Ga. a year ago, chose Chattanooga because the Hamilton Place location was ideal for expansion.
Ms. Blackborn said she knows what women go through. “I know firsthand how hard it can be to find something that is flattering and comfortable, and how personal an issue this is for most women,” she says.
Before opening the first store, which is 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, Ms. Blackburn researched the swimwear industry, searching for lines that would complement all women, not just those with perfect bodies. Southeast Swimwear now features Sunsets, Swim Systems, Freya, Fantasie, Panache and made-in-the-USA Tara Grinna suits, in sizes from 2-24 and in cup sizes up through H. All staff are trained by a certified bra specialist in how to measure customers for a good fit. The store specializes in separates that can be mixed and matched, even between lines. A typical price for a two-piece tankini suit, sold as separates, runs $150-$180.
Ms. Blackburn cites a mother-and-daughter team who came into the Chattanooga store as an example. “The girl was 13, and different sizes on top and bottom, as is very common,” she explains. “We found a great look for her and her mother was so happy. She said, ‘This is the first time we’ve done this with no tears.’” Another, 60-year-old customer told her, “I’ve never had so many choices.” Says Ms. Blackburn, “It’s absolutely possible to find a suit that is a perfect fit—and is not frumpy.”
For the customer who prefers to shop with no assistance, the store also offers a good ambiance. Robes in each dressing room allow someone trying suits on to come in and out without the hassle of dressing and undressing so often experienced in department stores. And for those who want Ms. Blackburn and her staff’s expertise, they provide it. “I explain what we carry, and offer to pick some pieces for them that based on my experience, will likely flatter their body type,” says Ms Blackburn.
The two store locations will share merchandise, so if a size is not available in one store, it can be ordered from the other. Other merchandise choices include cover-ups, bags and hats.
Southeast Swimwear is located next to Anna Ball White, across the road from Big River Grille, in Hamilton Place. The store is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Gail Blackburn, owner of Southeast Swimwear.