By  on March 30, 1994

NEW YORK -- Eileen Fisher, a 10-year-old contemporary sportswear company here, seems to be growing things in 50 percent increments these days.

Last year, the company's volume rose 50 percent. Its new showroom, slated to open at the end of April on the fourth floor at 214 West 39th St., will be almost 50 percent bigger than its current space on the 12th floor of the same building. And at the company's headquarters in Irvington, N.Y., a recently completed expansion increased the square footage by 50 percent.

"Business was great in 1993," said Eileen Fisher, the 43-year-old designer and president of the company that bears her name. "We did between $17 [million] and $18 million wholesale, and $7.4 million retail, which is pretty good, considering two of the stores were only open half a year."

But success won't spoil Eileen Fisher, if she has anything to say about it. Rather than going forward with a rush of expansion plans, Fisher is huddling with her executives -- several of whom are new to the company -- to manage the growth. At the same time, she's trying to build a brand name that's consistent with the company's size.

"We feel strongly that the company is bigger than the name right now," said Fisher. "People are always surprised to learn that we do $25 million."

In January, the company hired its first chief executive officer -- Frederic C. McCabe, a retail consultant and alumnus of L.L. Bean. Other new staffers include Robert Valentine, art director; Mary Cally, production director; Mary Lynne Heldmann, human resources director, and architect Brady Wilcox. They are based at the firm's Irvington headquarters, which contain general offices and warehousing and which now cover 26,700 square feet. The new showroom in New York will have 3,100 square feet.

"We have over 130 employees," said McCabe. "The challenge, when you grow this fast, is to maintain a healthy workplace."

Another part of building the brand is increasing Fisher's specialty store reach. There are five Eileen Fisher stores: four here, and one that just opened in Sanibel, Fla. The company plans to open at least three more stores this year -- two in Boston, and one in East Hampton, N.Y.

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