Byline: Kathryn Hopper

Charlie Brown knows it’s important to give buyers exciting looks and attentive service, but he also gives visitors to his showroom something to chew on: homemade desserts — including homemade pina colada cake and chocolate cake — baked by his wife, Karen. “She’s kind of famous for it,” said Brown, whose showroom, Charlie Brown & Associates, is located in room 2G23 at the International Apparel Mart in Dallas. “It’s something our customers look forward to and something we like to do for them. We like to do the business, but also have some fun.”
Brown represents contemporary and young contemporary lines, including Nally & Milly, Y @heart, Michelle Nicole and Vivyd, which all have wholesale price points between $20 and $50. He recently picked up a new line, Sky by David Park, which has price points and styles similar to his other lines.
The 2,200-square-foot showroom’s staff varies from 13 to 15 people, and his wife and 10-year-old daughter Karlie, who is home-schooled by the couple, also work in the showroom, making the business a family affair.
“Karlie loves to help out, and she’s good at making sales,” Brown said. “She’s a natural.”
For buyers who can’t make it to markets, Brown goes to them using a 23-foot-long bus stocked with hanging samples and a sofa for customers to view the collections. He figures he puts at least 30,000 miles a year on the bus, but believes it’s well worth it to have that personal contact and build his customer base.
“I go out in my bus to look for new accounts and sometimes, if someone can’t be at the market, I’ll go to them,” he said. “It has to be worth it because it’s expensive.”
Brown grew up in a small town in North Carolina and even enjoyed a stint as a barber and a pet food sales representative before landing a job at the Atlanta Apparel Mart in 1970. In his 30-plus-year career in the apparel trade he has been a sales manager, merchandise manager and the owner of two stores. He recently expanded his business, opening a second showroom in the Atlanta Apparel Mart a year ago and operating a Las Vegas showroom in February.
On the trend front, Brown said, “This year, we’re seeing lots of lace, gypsy and pretty romantic looks.”
Brown’s contemporary lines target teens, as well as their moms who want to look a bit hip. The showroom’s Web site features a photo of a dour-looking antebellum woman wearing a hoopskirt and donning a frown, next to the line, “Don’t look like the average soccer mom.”
He said using a fun approach is important in these times of uncertainty and believes women are looking for clothes that can cheer them up without being a major expenditure. “You’ve got to give a customer a reason to buy,” Brown said. “You’ve got to give them something new. People get depressed and go shopping. They want a cute top that’s fun and makes them feel good.”

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