Fresh Produce has taken up residence at a 1,340-square-foot space at 66 Newtown Lane in East Hampton through mid-October. The extended engagement will allow the brand to learn about East End consumers, including Manhattanites, as it considers opening a store in the region. New York is among the top five locations for online purchases on the brand’s e-commerce site, with a 30 percent sales increase year-over-year.
“Fresh Produce could represent the contrast between consumers’ bustling lives in New York. We could help them relieve their stress,” said Cindy Keizman, chief merchandising and operations manager. “We’re all about the comforts of beach life, a coastal feel and nature. We reflect our values in all touch points.”
In addition to an exclusive Hamptons collection created for the pop-up, Fresh Produce features accessories — a new category — with jewelry, handbags, scarves and small leather goods. “We’re in conversations to expand into beauty next year,” said Keizman. “Products will be sustainable and with a focus on natural ingredients and fewer chemicals. It will have antiaging [properties], and color will definitely be key.”
Fresh Produce is approaching the home category with its proprietary prints, and exploring licensing opportunities for paper products and tabletop, among other things.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary this month, Fresh Produce is conscious of the passage of time. “We’re recalibrating our age to understand where our customer is going,” said Keizman, noting that the pop-up appeals to a new set of customers in their early to mid-Thirties, which is younger than Fresh Produce’s core 45- to 55-year-old client.
“We bring the emotions of what women really want from a dream vacation into everyday life,” said Keizman said. “It’s color and the beach and the resort lifestyle incorporated into everyday fashion. It’s not just aspects of design, but also quality.
Mary Ellen and Thom Vernon, who met on the Kansas State University track team, moved to Long Beach, Calif., and founded Fresh Produce during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Mary Ellen silk screened bright-colored T-shirts and made custom jewelry, which she and Thom sold in the parking lot across the street from the Coliseum. After selling $40,000 worth of products in three weeks, the Vernons decided to quit their day jobs and launch their own apparel business.
“We’re using sustainability methods, new dye techniques and garment washes. We transform garments with prints, which is what we’re known for,” Keizman said. “There’s a lot more hand-embellished and embroidered items in the collection. We’re able to maintain our price points because we’re conscious of our vertical operations. We’re able to react quickly. About 80 percent of the collection is made in the U.S.
“By next year we’ll make decisions about overlapping and opening multiple pop-up shops,” Keizman said. “Spring 2020 will give us a good indication of how many we can manage. The pop-ups could be a new channel for us. We could explore different demographics.”
Fresh Produce operates 16 stores, and five Handpicked franchise units. The brand’s wholesale accounts include Macy’s and Dillard’s as well as small coastal boutiques.
With a contemporary coastal design, including a pristine white backdrop, Shaker elements, woven carpets, natural and distressed painted wood and industrial elements, the Fresh Produce unit in East Hampton is anchored by an apothecary and accessories products.
“Once customers find us, they tend to be consumers for life,” Keizman said.