On any given day at Terra Verde, multiple generations shop for various eclectic sundries — cards, candles, jewelry, sweaters, boots, jeans, custom socks and hair bling.
And so much more.
Last week, Bill Griffith helped his children, Catcher and Lexi, shop for a birthday gift for their mother, Tracy Eubanks.
From New York City, Hillary Rhue and her sister, Chicagoan Courtney Anderson did their Christmas shopping with Courtney’s son Rowan.
“We shop here every year,” Anderson said. “We love it for the amazing merchandise and the free gift wrapping.” Their mother lives in Colorado Springs.
“We’re here for the weekend,” Rhue said. “It’s our favorite store in Colorado Springs.”
Terra Verde has operated 21 years on Tejon Street.
“The cool thing about the store is that a lot of people have been working here 15, 16, 17 years, and they come back over the holidays to work,” said Karen Rivera, who does the marketing and some gift purchasing.
“We really rarely hire people from the outside,” said owner Chris Sondermann. “We’re so fortunate to have the people from the Terra Verde family.
“People care for each other, and this warmth then extends to the customer base.”
Chris and Gary Sondermann opened Terra Verde in August 1992 after a major renovation of the retail space next to Chinook Bookshop. The location appealed to them because of the bustling nature of the bookstore next door.
Previous to opening Terra Verde, the Sondermanns had owned and operated another downtown venue, La Vicuna, on Bijou Street.
For their new boutique, the Sondermanns remodeled the facade while installing skylights to bring natural light into the rustic interior.
“Ever changing, creative vignettes incorporating inviting color and natural, vintage, and contemporary elements were to be the basis of the merchandising style,” read a history of the store presented by Rivera.
In 2004, when Chinook closed, “that left a tremendous loss,” Sondermann said. “I really liked walking next door to buy a book.” Now she sells books at Terra Verde.
“We very much miss our mentors and fellow retailers,” Sondermann said in the written history of the store. The boutique remodeled and added more square-footage, “paving the way for larger collections of outerwear, accessories, home decor, children’s items and books,” the history said. The larger sales area provides for more seating, dressing rooms and a seasonal clearance section.
Sondermann said she takes a multi-generational approach to purchasing merchandise for the store.
“One of the secrets to the store’s success is we send a lot of people to trade shows, and they have different perspectives because of their differing ages,” Sondermann said.
Recently, she sent representatives aged 23, 40, 55 and 60 to trade shows, and that “creates a broad perspective,” Sondermann said.
As a result, multiple generations come to the store, and they gravitate to different corners.
One of the secrets to the store’s success is we send a lot of people to trade shows, and they have different perspectives because of their differing ages.”
– Chris Sondermann,
Terra Verde owner
A break from traditional trade shopping, Sondermann will buy at large shows on the West Coast and her hometown of New York City, and she conducts market research at other boutiques.
Sondermann also changes the merchandise showcase every month or so.
“I think that’s part of our success,” she said. “People who shop enjoy that every time they come in, everything changes.”
“It doesn’t have the staleness of chain stores.”
This year’s business is slightly below last year, Sondermann said. But, she added, it’s still better than the recession years of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
“We’ve come back some from there,” Sondermann said.
To combat economic downturns, the boutique does self-promotion of special events and email marketing. Every day Rivera posts a “dog of the day” on the store’s Facebook page. The boutique’s website, terraverdestyle.com, is under construction and should be finalized by March, Rivera said. In the meantime, she encourages visits to Terra Verde’s Facebook page.
She said she’ll “always be a little scared,” because she’s got considerable inventory and her line of credit is extended.
“I hope the season ends up as expected,” she said.
The store is open Christmas Eve. That combined with free gift wrapping gives the boutique a boost.
“We just have to keep it fresh,” Sondermann said. “We’re blessed to have a steady, loyal clientele.”
Sondermann encourages her employees to extol the virtues of shopping downtown — and shopping locally.
“Part of our job is to sell people on being downtown,” Sondermann said, adding that they refer customers to other stores downtown.
“We encourage our employees to talk about their favorite restaurant and other stores and to educate people on where to park,” Sondermann said.
“It’s our job to be active in advocating for our community that we are a part of.”
Info: 208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621
Years in business: 21
Number of employees: 15