By RONA MANN / Photos by Stephanie Sittnick

Look up the word “chichi” in the dictionary, and you’ll find “elaborate” or “over the top.” Other sources define “chichi” as “elegant,” “trendy,” and “chic.”

Look through the well dressed windows of Lulu’s, A Chichi Boutique in Guilford, and you won’t need that dictionary any longer. For when you open the door and enter Lulu’s, you’ll fully understand just how unique, attractive, and downright delicious this place can be. Elegant, trendy, chic…yes, Lulu’s is all that, while also being a model of evolution.

It doesn’t take long after meeting Kim Mangs that you hear the world “evolve”…she peppers her conversation frequently with the word because Kim Mangs soundly affirms that any business must evolve if it is to grow and flourish. She believes that to be successful you need to constantly make changes based on what your customers are looking for and what’s selling. And that’s precisely how Mangs has made a smashing 23 year success out of Lulu’s, a thriving enterprise that is part of the diverse patchwork of Guilford businesses dotting the Town Green. Lulu’s is also the product of a passionate love affair with a talented man, a town that is thoroughly adored, the country of Haiti, and three very special young men, all rolled into one.

To begin at the beginning. Kim grew up in Guilford, always appreciating the small town closeness, the beauty of the Town Green, the friendliness of its residents. She had initially worked as a secretary in a real estate office and as a bartender in a high end establishment, professions which prepared her for a successful career serving the local community. When she met and fell in love with her future husband, Tim Mangs, he quickly introduced her to one of his other loves: the country of Haiti, situated on an island in the greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean. It didn’t take long before Kim also fell in love with the country, its people, its art and artifacts…so much so that the couple now maintains a second home there to which they retreat three months of the year.

As someone for whom multi-tasking is not a hindrance, but a way of life, Kim chose to open a store in downtown Guilford shortly after her third son was born. Expecting to finally have a daughter, the couple had prematurely picked out the name “Lulu.”   However when “Max” came upon the scene to complete the masculine hat trick, Mangs was not willing to let the cherished name go, so she named her first store Lulu’s; and it’s never changed, even though she moved a few times until she found just the right “sweet spot,” but oh how it’s evolved!

“I started with West Indian antiques that we imported, supplying many decorators with these prized pieces.” But when Kim moved from “down the street,” Lulu’s began to evolve, adding some luxurious bedding to the furniture already displayed. Seeing that her customers were responding favorably, she next augmented her inventory with robes and high-end sleepwear. They also were a hit, but Mangs understood her business. “If I only carried sleepwear, I never would have made it.” So next she added exquisite handmade jewelry, pieces not found elsewhere.

When Mangs hired some younger employees, she also added inventory that would appeal to their demographic: UGGS, kicky socks, chunky jewelry, fun pajamas, and more.

“They are very knowledgeable about what we sell,” Kim reports. “They can answer all questions; and when we’re not here, I feel completely comfortable knowing they will carry the store in our absence.” She also wisely adds, “If I were to gain 10 pounds, I’d go into a different style of clothing, so Lulu’s also features clothing lines for the more mature figure and taste.”

Mangs is cognizant of the fact that today many people do their shopping on the internet, but finds her customers want to come in to Lulu’s to “see what’s here, to try things on, to touch and feel. I have great lines and invest heavily in my brands, so our customers really appreciate what we have.”

Mangs readily admits that her prices are not cheap, but not over the top either. A customer who is at the register checking out chimes in to the conversation adding, “It’s quality, so the prices are very reasonable for the quality you get at Lulu’s.”

Lulu’s is not a big store, but so well designed and planned. Mangs gives full credit to Tim “who comes from a design and build family. He designed all my stores, and I’m his biggest fan.” The lighting is superb, directing the eye to the soft, luxurious loungewear and sleepwear, steering attention to the sunglasses, jewelry, hats, lingerie, tops, bottoms, and wearable whimsy. Very chichi indeed

When you meet Kim Mangs you’re meeting a woman who is very much at peace with herself. She has a husband she absolutely adores, three wonderful successful sons, a true affection for the town in which she works, a real kinship with the country of Haiti and its people, and is forever grateful for a successful business ardently supported by long-standing customers and employees she not only likes, but completely respects and trusts. “I feel very fortunate. I had a lot of help in life, but I believe in karma. It all comes back to you.

These are the words of a woman who is happy and fulfilled, but not entirely content. Kim Mangs will always be seeking new ways to improve, to make things better in her store and in her world. She will continue to evolve and grow.

There are two primary languages in Haiti: French and Creole. A quick glance at the Creole word for “happy” is “kontan.” It means a state of contentment and therefore goes hand in hand with the Creole greeting, “Mwen kontan rekonet ou,” or “I’m happy to come to know and be associated with you.”

Sounds a lot like Kim Mangs; a lot like Lulu’s.

Lulu’s, a Chichi Boutique is located at 75 Whitefield Street, right on the Green in downtown Guilford   (203) 453-6887   Facebook.com/lulusguilford

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