Byline: Tami M. Hardeman

Linda Strong is no stranger to risks, from branching out and founding her own accessories showroom, Cornucopia, to the unusual products she carries.
Strong has had her own showroom in AmericasMart for three years. Now, having completed a renovation that doubled her space, she said she is beginning to see her risks pay off.
Prior to striking out on her own, Strong worked with previous tenant Craig Clovis in his showroom. When Clovis closed his Atlanta operation, Strong took the things she learned — as well as a few of Clovis’s lines — and opened Cornucopia.
Currently, she represents around 15 lines, from fine cubic zirconia jewelry to a range of silk floral pieces. Included are Sandy Duftler, a New York leather goods line, and Medalias, a sterling silver collection. Cornucopia also reps Pierre Urbach, the beaded handbag line that won a DIVA Award this year.
Strong said she seeks out lines that interest her personally and also help her maintain an eclectic mix for her specialty store base.
“I have always stuck my neck out and looked for lines that are doing something a bit different. If I see a line that interests me, I have no problem taking a better look at it or giving it a shot here in the showroom.”
One thing that Strong knows well is how to attract the Southern customer. “Southern women are now more classic in buying clothing and accessories. They want to incorporate trends, but still remain somewhat timeless.”
Major accounts include Atlanta-based Personality stores, Slippers of Athens, Ga., and Four Seasons in Gainesville, Fla. As with many reps these days, Strong is on the road as much as she is in her showroom. She estimates that she travels five months out of the year.
While Strong’s customer base has traditionally been smaller boutiques and specialty stores, she has recently branched out into the department store arena with the addition of Donald Pliner handbags, eyewear, footwear and hosiery. This has added new high-end shoe business to her roster and takes her to the Miami and Atlanta shoe shows several times a year.
Strong’s renovation of the showroom was intended to make room for new lines and growth of existing collections. In addition, she wanted to make the space more accessible and inviting to customers. “It just makes it so much easier on the buyers if the showroom is laid out in a sensible, uncluttered way,” she said.
In order to bring customers into the showroom, Strong and her team of four full-time employees go out of their way to educate buyers. Six times a year, postcards and newsletters with showrooms news, line information and market reminders are sent out to their clients.
Strong said that business is up 15 percent over last year. “This has really been a work in progress. It’s not something that I expect to build overnight, but I’m extremely happy with where the business is.”

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