Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 25
Spotlight on: Apple TreeBen Vigil, Connie Vigil, and Ray Anderson, owners
BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
Ruffles and sequins hang in colorful rows, adorn the walls, and cover the naked off-white of store mannequins. That’s not all that Apple Tree in the Santa Maria Town Center sells, but those dresses are the most visible—you know, they have that bling-factor that separates them from everything else in the store.
There are also modern tuxedos, nightclub dresses, corsets, and children’s formal wear. Although the children’s wear won’t be in the store for much longer, because the Apple Tree is expanding into a new location. Formal wear for the little ones is being moving across the mall hallway into an empty space next to Macy’s on the second floor.
Co-owner Ben Vigil said they are hoping to have Apple Tree Children open by mid-September. For an ownership crew that’s celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, that kind of growth shows promise.
Ben; his wife, Connie; and their business partner Ray Anderson took over Apple Tree last August from previous owner Kay Cain, who ran the store for 14 years before relocating to Italy with her husband.
“To be honest with you, it just fell in my lap,” Ben said.
Ben also has a business that specializes in business loans, and because Cain is a family friend, she approached him when she was trying to sell the store and asked him if he could prequalify a potential buyer for a loan. For some reason, the buyer fell through; Cain asked Ben if he wanted the store; and he decided to go for it.
Ben contacted Anderson, who owns Anderson Men’s Wear—which was in the mall at one point, then moved to Orcutt, then moved to sell exclusively online—and has been in men’s retail for 27 years, to bring his expertise to the Apple Tree.
“He’s branded himself as the guy to get suits from,” Ben said. “When people want to see him, they come here.”
Anderson said he switched to online-only sales because of the way the economy was, but things have changed since 2009.
“I think when he called, my voice went up about two octaves,” Anderson said. “I was like, ‘You know what, maybe it’s time to come back.’”
Now, men’s wear—suits, ties, suspenders, dress shirts, and rentals—comprise about 25 percent of Apple Tree’s total sales. Anderson said he spends a lot of time teaching people how to wear tuxedos, especially teenagers renting one to go to homecoming or prom.
“Tuxedos [are] a strange creature,” Anderson said. “Kids, they change their minds like a drop of water.”
With homecoming in the near future for Santa Maria high schools, Apple Tree is getting ready for its third fashion show on Sept. 13. The fashion shows are Anderson’s brainchild. He said the shows give Apple Tree a chance to make their formal wear more visible to high school students, and portray the latest styles the trio has brought into the store.
“To show off the fact that the fashion’s changed a lot since the previous owner,” Anderson said.
Ben added that the fashion was a little bit more conservative when Cain owned the store, whereas the Apple Tree is a little more “fashion forward” and contemporary now.
The shop is still looking for high school students to work the runway during the fashion show, especially on the boy’s side of things. Interested? Contact Apple Tree at 739-0100.
The fashion show is set for Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. on the lower level of the mall, in front of Macy’s.
Managing Editor Camillia Lanham wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, email, or mail.
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