Story by Heather Feeler | Aug 28, 2015
Three generations deep, Saffees continues to build fashion confidence among its clientele.
Saffees clothing store has been an iconic storefront in downtown Jefferson City for more than 90 years. Although many know the store, either from finding the perfect outfit or admiring the window décor, its rich and complex family history may be its best-kept secret.
In 1923, Samuel Saffee, a young entrepreneur who was educated in France and fluent in three languages, started a furniture store with his wife, Sadie, in Jefferson City but quickly realized a greater need for a women’s clothing store in the community. Saffees clothing store opened two years later downtown. From the very beginning, it was a full-blown family affair.
Samuel’s daughter, Lorraine, worked at the store through college and then took over after a devastating fire destroyed the store in 1961.
It was a business she rebuilt from the ground up and passed along to her own children, including her daughter, Judy. Today, Lorraine Saffee Mercurio, Judy Howard and Michelle Hattaway
(granddaughter) all work in the Jefferson City store, side by side, six days a week. Training for Hattaway, by Mercurio, started at an early age as she recalls spraying perfume samples on customers when she was only 9 years old.
“Grandma’s philosophy is to be honest with your customers, and we bring that to every interaction we have in the store,” Hattaway says. “She told us that we would know we had done a good job when our customers came in thrilled from the compliments they receive, thanks to Saffees.”
Although all three women work daily in the store helping customers along with their other employees, Howard buys merchandise for all four stores, works with clothing vendors and manages distribution between the stores. Hattaway assists with buying and spends time marketing the business through several outlets, including social media.
“We can dress you regardless of age, body type or budget,” Hattaway says. “We can help to build your self-confidence.”
Dressing women for those big occasions — first date, first job, honeymoon, having kids, kids’ homecoming — has made Saffees’ customers more than just customers; they are friends. Building these relationships and dressing their clients well is something neither Howard nor Hattaway takes lightly.
“It doesn’t feel like work when you’re catching up on people’s lives — people getting married or having kids,” Hattaway says. “We get to watch them go through these milestones and be a part of it. They grow, and we grow.”
In order for Saffees to continue expanding and evolving as a business with each generation, the family works hard to bring fashionable, one-of-a-kind clothing to its customers. All three
generations go to market in Las Vegas and New York several times a year to keep abreast of and purchase the latest styles. Hattaway notes Howard’s natural eye for fashion, and her almost photographic memory of what is a repeat from previous years allows them to immediately transfer the latest trends and stylish fashion to customers.
“Nobody has a perfect body type, so we train our staff on how to perfectly dress all types,” Howard says. “The confidence level we build in women when we dress them is amazing.”
It’s something they hope returning customers will always appreciate and new customers will come to love about Saffees.
“We have been offering exceptional customer service for more than 90 years,” Howard says. “You never have to leave the dressing room to find a size because we do all the work for you. That’s what has always made Saffees successful, and that’s what we do today. We tell our customers, ‘Be prepared for compliments.’”
Saffees is located at 227 E. High St. in downtown Jefferson City. For more information on Saffees, including other locations in Overland Park, Kansas; Lawrence, Kansas; and Osage Beach, Missouri, visit saffees.com, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.