Sisters Suzy McIntosh and Vanessa Shreve opened Blue Hem, a specialty jean store for men and women, in South End a year ago. They sell high-end brands like Raleigh Denim, 3×1, J Brand and Fidelity. They also carry local products from 704 Shop, Erin McDermott Jewelry and J Willow.
The shop is located at 1750 Camden Road, surrounded by many small shops and restaurants with quick access to the light rail and Charlotte Rail Trail.
Before arriving in Charlotte in 2008, Vanessa, 33, attended college in Florida and Alaska, eventually finishing with a degree in finance. She moved to Charlotte and worked at Bank of America for five years.
Suzy, 36, moved to Charlotte in 2003 after she graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in communications. She worked in human resources at Diamonds Direct for 10 years.
Vanessa and Suzy felt like their lives were like the movie, Groundhog Day, always doing the same thing day-after-day. They wanted to create something that was their own. They saw a lack of specialty stores in Charlotte, and thought the concept of a denim shop would work here.
Vanessa said, “The concept was for a fit for every body, just jeans for men and women. It is such a struggle to find a fit that you feel is right.”
Blue Hem carries 14 different brands that each have a different style and fit, making it easier to find something that fits a person’s specific style and body type. They also carry Raw Denim, an exclusive product for men, designed by Blue Hem and Anarke, another local Charlotte company. Jean prices range from $150-$300.
To celebrate their one-year anniversary, Blue Hem is offering 15 percent off all purchases on Friday and Saturday, March 17 and 18.
Vanessa and Suzy answer questions for C5’s Small Business Series:
How did you decide on the location of your business?
Vanessa: “We knew (South End) was a desirable location. It’s up and coming, a hip neighborhood. There are younger professionals who have more money to do things and shop.”
What have you learned about your relationship as sisters?
Suzy: “We have differences, but they are respectable differences. We bring out the best in each other with our difference, most of the time. We both have different styles, so we are able to bring in our own style of what we want in the store, fashion-wise.”
Vanessa: “I am more into the raw denim, the heavier cottony denim that (appeals to) a lot of guys who are denim enthusiasts. She’s better with the novelty and fashion pieces. We both have a different eye for things.”
Where have you made mistakes?
Suzy: “There are mistakes in any small business when you open. It might be our first order.”
Vanessa: “That was hard. We ordered for the fall, but because of delayed construction on Camden, we did not open until the spring. But Center City Partners helped us last winter with a pop-up shop in Latta Arcade.”
What has been the best way to get the word out about Blue Hem?
Vanessa: “Influencers have been huge and very successful with us, like Queen City Chic and Samantha Busch. Social media is pretty powerful.”
When you are not at Blue Hem, what are you doing?
Suzy: “I have two small children so I take care of them the majority of the time. I have two girls, 6 and 3. We go to the park, lots of activities.”
Vanessa: “Just got married last spring so I was planning the wedding and opening the store at the same time. We both like mountain biking and hiking. Anything outdoors.”
Blue Hem: 1750 Camden Rd.
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; Closed Sunday
Photos: Katie Smith Photography
Family history and my own fascination with people and their motivations prompted me to begin this series about Charlotte’s small business owners. Industry, situation and questions will vary. Have a suggestion for a small business owner or entrepreneur to interview? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Small Business Series.”