December 31, 2014

From Newbury St. to Sudbury: Store owner hopes for success in 'burbs

PHOTO/COURTESY
Matsu opened at 92 Boston Post Rd., Sudbury, this month. The high-end clothing and lifestyle store was on Newbury Street in Boston for many years.

It wasn't the recession that killed Dava Muramatsu's Newbury Street lifestyle and clothing business in 2011. It was roadwork.

The high-end retail store, Matsu, was pretty much out of reach of the damage caused by the Great Recession of 2009 because Muramatsu's clientele consisted primarily of wealthy women who might spend $500 on a whim. But when construction workers started tearing up Newbury Street in front of her second-floor store, the business took a hit.

Soon, a portable toilet became a permanent fixture on the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs outside.

"I blame it on the no parking," Muramatsu said of the declining foot traffic and sales that led to the closure.

After running her store on Newbury Street since the early 1980s, Muramatsu regrouped and decided to make another go of it, this time on Boston Post Road in Sudbury. She admits she didn't do market research, but instead relied on her instincts. A resident of Weston, she's confident the new locale will pull in enough well-to-do women from Sudbury, Concord, Wayland and Weston to support the business. And she expects her former customers will travel farther to visit the new location. A few came in Dec. 9 following a soft opening, including a customer from Dover.

"She started to cry when she came in the door because I've been gone for three years and there's a void," Muramatsu said.

What is it about a store that offers jewelry (designed by Muramatsu), clothing, accessories and housewares that could bring a customer to tears? Muramatsu explained that she strives to create a sanctuary in her shop, and inspire women to explore when it comes to personal style. She said many of the middle-aged women in her suburban target market have forgotten how to dress, and she hopes to remind them how to think outside the box, and to stop wearing yoga pants everywhere they go.

"I dropped everything to start a new paradigm … in a pocket in the suburbs," Muramatsu said.

Price points have been adjusted to reflect the Zip code change, but Muramatsu said she's had new customers stop in and spend hundreds after a morning at the gym, for instance, signaling that there's plenty of money to go around for high-end MetroWest retailers.

But she'll miss the European shoppers who sometimes visited her Newbury Street location. Their sense of style is innate, she said, and they're willing to pay for it.

"But they were few and far between," Muramatsu said.

Beyond that, Muramatsu said, she doesn't miss anything nothing about working in Boston. There is ample parking outside her store, and opening it was a cinch.

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