There has been no shortage of challenges and adversity during the COVID-19 pandemic — if you don’t believe it, just ask Jaime Sloan.
Co-owner of Sanctum Style with her husband Ryan McCarthy, Sloan runs an upscale men’s and women’s boutique at MarketStreet Lynnfield; her challenges began long before the words “COVID-19,” “coronavirus,” “pivot,” and “protocol,” and the acronyms “PPP” and “PPE” became everyday parts of our pandemic vocabulary.
Sloan spent most of her childhood in Marblehead before moving to Andover. An Andover High graduate, Sloan and McCarthy had recently moved back to Massachusetts after living in New York City, where she was a jack (and master) of all trades, working in fashion and dabbling in the performing arts as a playwright, opera singer, and actor.
In the fall of 2017, Sloan opened Dani Kaye, a small boutique-specialty store on Main Street in North Andover. The name was inspired in part by her experience in opera.
“You know if you have your name in the title, you are going to die, so there was no way I wanted my store named after me,” she said with a laugh. “I also like the fact that the Biblical name Daniel refers to God being your judge and the word Kaye in Celtic means keeper of the keys. I feel it’s important that you not get hung up on what people think you should be. You have to own who you are and be willing to take risks.”
Sloan slowly built a solid customer base. After just celebrating Dani Kaye’s first anniversary, everything came to a halt on Sept. 13, 2018 when the Columbia Gas Company explosions literally rocked not only her business, but her home life as well.
“I was in the store and then went out for lunch and saw all these people on the street,” Sloan said. “Flames were shooting out of the Chowder Factory building. I scrambled to turn off all the valves before we had to evacuate not just the store, but our apartment. We literally had 10 minutes to get our stuff out. We were freaking out because we didn’t know if there would be smash-and-grab looting. It was terrible. The stench of smoke was everywhere.”
The following week, Sloan was in New York City on a pre-planned spring buying trip.
“I think I cried the whole time I was there and was just a mess through the whole show,” Sloan said. “I had no idea if I still had a business. My clients had lost their homes. It was really scary. We had a long battle with the adjusters and problems with our landlord. It was just a disaster.”
Despite the adversity, Sloan managed to find a silver lining. She hit the road, bringing her product to her clientele. When she saw an unmet demand for protective masks, she organized a group of sewers to make masks. All told, she donated more than 200,000.
“We met regularly at Dunkin’ Donuts to organize and it got to the point where fire departments, nurses, people just wanted any kind of mask they could find,” Sloan said. “It was such a wild time, but people needed masks, so I drove everywhere picking up and delivering. It got to the point where Ryan said, ‘Can you just please come home?'”
Sloan made the painful decision to walk away from Dani Kaye when her lease expired in July 2019.
“We just packed everything up and left,” she said. “It was horrible. I was heartbroken. I looked at other spaces but I wasn’t going to sign another lease in a pandemic without a vaccine. I was also concerned about the fact that cold weather was coming and I just couldn’t take on that risk.”
As things began to settle down, Sloan entertained thoughts of opening a popup at MarketStreet. She took the plunge with a full storefront, opening over Labor Day weekend.
“It’s remarkable that I was the first of eight new businesses opening this fall,” Sloan said. “I feel that a smaller business, we’re leaner and we can pivot easier and quicker than larger retailers. It’s great to see so many people taking advantage of so many opportunities.”
So far, so good, she says.
“Business has been good, so I can’t complain,” said Sloan, a Swampscott native. “People are still discovering us, but I have a great group of customers from my North Andover store and they are so loyal so they are finding me. This location has turned out to be an ideal location for my business. Being able to open here has been a huge win for us.”
Sloan describes Sanctum Style as an upscale boutique offering a multi-designer assortment and the latest in fashion trends. Sloan said its assortment is inspired by her love of fashion and contemporary-city style. Notable brands include Frame and Paige Denim in both men’s and women’s styles; Vince, Faherty, Rails, and ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo for men; and Good American, Misa Los Angeles, Ramy Brook, and Jonathan Simkhai for women.
Sloan said a sanctum is defined as “a sacred and holy place where one is free from intrusion” and that is exactly what her Sanctum Style provides her clients.
“Created as a special place to discover not only what is new and current, Sanctum Style seeks to enhance and transform one’s personal style,” said Sloan, who describes her style as “cosmopolitan” with an emphasis on upscale casual. “We cater to a lot of people in banking, real estate, people who generally are more professional, more conservative, but we also have a lot of moms who want functional wardrobes.”
The store provides a personalized-shopping service with knowledgeable stylists on hand to work one-on-one with guests. Personal shopping appointments are also available to book online (www.sanctumstyle.com | @sanctumstyle).
Sloan is no stranger to the world of luxury fashion and fine jewelry. She worked for more than a decade for several top retailers including Barneys New York, John Hardy and David Yurman at Saks 5th Avenue and Bloomingdale’s 59th Street, as well as Tiffany & Company on 5th Avenue. A self-proclaimed anti-fashion fashionista, she said she developed her no-nonsense style philosophy from her experience as an opera singer in New York City, as well as her experience working in high fashion.
“I just kind of fell into luxury retailing when I was running around the city performing and I had clients who needed wardrobe help, like I did,” she said. “It was a matter of being able to always be ready while carrying around as little as you could.”
Sloan grew up in Marblehead, spending significant time in the family business, Sloan Machinery in Lynn (now in New Hampshire). She moved to Andover when she was a teenager, graduating from Andover High School. She studied voice and music at the New England Conservatory of Music where she sang in the choir. She graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a degree in vocal performance.
Some time after graduating, she moved to New York City. Her first “real job” was at Columbia Artist Management, where she met her husband.
Sloan said she is encouraging people to start their holiday shopping early and also to shop local.
“I’ve been telling people to get on your shopping early as the supply-chain problems are real,” Sloan said. “For me, being in a small specialty market, I feel I have a small competitive edge compared to the larger chain-style stores. You will get customer service and also do your happy dance as this is the perfect opportunity to reconnect in their community.
“I don’t say we sell product; we sell experiences, the moments when you wear that special piece at a special occasion. COVID took much of that away from us. I view my business as being facilitators to help people make those moments and memories. We’ve created a space, a refuge for people to escape and for people to play. For me, the best thing has been being able to have my clients say, ‘Can I give you a hug.’ I’ll never refuse a hug. Not with all that’s gone on.”