Mother knows best

“Make me a promise that you will open that store, Angela.”

During the weeks before her passing, Aida Rotondo put this deathbed request before her daughter, Angela Guitard. While owning an upscale fashion boutique was something Rotondo knew her daughter had always hoped for, it was something she never truly encouraged. “She was always like, ‘You have a great job. You have four kids. It’s not the right time,’” Guitard recalls of her mother.

But in those few weeks that preceded Rotondo’s death from pancreatic cancer, she had a change of heart, urging Guitard to take a leap of faith.

“She wanted to make sure that I followed my dreams,” Guitard says with a smile. “So I was really determined after that.”

It was that motherly encouragement that prompted Guitard to leave her job in retail and open up her own women’s clothing store, Angela’s, in her hometown of Rye just 18 months later. Her eponymous store offers designer attire, shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories, with pieces handpicked by Guitard and crafted by high-end brands from Chloé to Barbara Bui to Rag & Bone. These designs hang from racks that line the sleek white walls of her boutique at 24 Purchase St., amid a chic interior that is decorated with plush, inviting couches, a large plasma TV and dozens of black-and-white photos of iconic stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. The 3,500-square-foot storefront also includes an expanded menswear department, Fred’s, opened in November 2015 in the adjacent retail space at 22 Purchase St.

“This is, I consider it, my home,” Guitard says of her store, “because I’m here a lot, so it’s almost like I want to welcome customers into my home.”

Guitard’s fascination with fashion began at an early age, when she would beg her mother to buy her pair after pair of various footwear and dream of having a store of her very own. That passion for style only grew as Guitard matured, leading her to pursue a professional career in the field, working first for Nordstrom and later rising to become one of the top sales associates during her 10-year tenure at Richards in Greenwich.

“I always wanted to look and feel good about what I wore every day,” Guitard says. “I just want my customers to feel the same way, to love what they have on, because personally I think when you love what you have on, you have a better day.”

That is the inspiration behind Angela’s philosophy, “love what you wear,” a motto inscribed both across the front glass of the store and inside each of its merchandise bags.

“If you don’t love it, I don’t want you to buy it,” Guitard says.

With her long history in the industry, Guitard knows a thing or two about helping customers find the perfect piece. Her unique brand of customer service includes anything from personal styling and shopping trips to organizing a customer’s closet.

“We do everything,” Guitard says. “We buy them undergarments, give their dogs treats, open up a bottle of wine, buy them lunch, give them coffee. Anything that makes them feel comfortable.”

Guitard has also been known to eye designs that are perfect for a specific customer during family vacations to Europe — sometimes to the dismay of her husband, Frederick. But it’s that attention, Guitard says, that drives her store’s success.

That passion for her store and its patrons has been passed down to her daughter, Samantha, who also works at Angela’s as her mother’s “right-hand woman.” During the course of my visit to Angela’s, both Guitard and her daughter offered honest and detailed advice on color choices to a female shopper, responded to a customer who called in asking about a sizing choice for an online purchase — Guitard knew what size she needed without giving pause — and answered a question about the amount of stretch a specific fabric offered.

“It’s all about going above and beyond,” Guitard says.

Along with a focused attention on customer experience, Guitard also assembles curated look books to give customers a first look at upcoming collections and an opportunity to pre-order specific pieces. She frequently travels to Paris and Milan, scouring stores and meeting directly with designers themselves. Angela’s also offers complimentary in-house tailoring services.

“It’s really a one-stop shop,” Guitard said. “I think that customers constantly come back because it’s fun, it’s an experience.”

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