After 16 years, Max and Gino’s in Hewlett continues to draw tween and teen girls from the Five Towns and beyond by staying one step ahead of the latest fashion trends and exploring different ways to improve the business, according to the store’s head manager Kelly Ford, whose parents own the chain.
“My step-father’s heart and soul is in this business,” she said. “He’ll do anything he can to work hard to keep up with the times and the newest styles. He felt that his ideas could work well in the Five Towns and wanted to bring in something original here. When we first opened here, there wasn’t too much competition, and it just took off from there.”
What started out as a high-end jean and t-shirt boutique in a small storefront across the street from its current location is now a huge apparel outlet at 1317 Broadway. (Loehmann’s Shoes had been there until about three years ago.) It’s the store’s third move within Hewlett, each time to a bigger location. Long before starting up their Max and Gino’s chain, the owners sold clothing in flea markets for many years. Through that success they decided to open their first store in Merrick. Five more were to follow, including the Hewlett location.
With an eye on the changing economy, the store began stocking more moderately priced items over the years in an effort to include clientele with more modest incomes. With younger girls becoming more fashion conscious, the store started carrying children’s clothing, which Ford said has been very successful.
Although Max and Gino’s is primarily a store for juniors, there are plenty of choices for women in their 20s and beyond, according to the 41-year-old Ford, who said she wears the store’s clothes all the time.
The popularity and exclusivity of the store’s Butter Super Soft clothing line really put Max and Gino’s on the map, drawing customers from well beyond the Five Towns borders. Ford said that there is only one other store in the area that carries the brand, however, it is only the children’s line.
“The Butter sweatshirts are super soft and yummy, in gorgeous colors and great designs,” Ford said. “It’s a very original, fashionable sweatshirt. We do a lot of wholesale business with it all over the country.”
In addition to the expansion of the storefront and the products it sells, it seems that the quality of Max and Gino’s customer service is the lynchpin that pulls everything together.
“All the girls who work there are so accommodating. You really get great customer service,” said Ashley Gonzales, an employee at nearby Smiles By Design. “That’s why sometimes I like to shop at a nice local place instead of those big retail stores.”
Jolie Fleur employee Linda, also from the same strip mall, has also taken note of Max and Gino’s attention to service. She said that Gabby, a Max and Gino’s manager, is exceptionally good with customers and is “great at what she does.”
Ford said that treating her customers well is a focal point of the business.
“I know our customers well and give them amazing customer service,” Ford said. “We carry unique things and try to be as accommodating to our customers as we can. All of us try to be as helpful as we can and make each customer feel welcome. We’re a neighborhood store, so we really give people that personal touch.”