Hockey Couple Teams up to Open Lux Home Shop in Illinois
July 15, 2011,
Kelly Sopel’s new Simple Privileges store in the high-end Chicago suburb of Hinsdale is often referred to, in-house, as “The Girls Club.” The home furnishings shop’s signature line consists of the designer-scarf dec pillow created by Sopel, who also offers custom decorating services.
"It was really quick how this all happened. I secured the space in one day, and then I just started working from there." -KELLY SOPEL
While the effort is largely her own, Sopel said her family is working as a team to kick off this new business, which soft-opened in May but will officially grand open in late July or early August.
"Business so far it has been great. We're busier every day," Sopel said.
An "immense help" in running the business has been her husband, Brent, a National Hockey League champ who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. As Sopel puts it, he is contently spending his summer vacation "running errands and even making deliveries."
She said sometimes he catches customers off guard when he shows up to drop off orders. "But then, it's OK."
"Design is my wife's passion, and I am happy and excited to support her in her new adventure," Brent Sopel told HTT.
Their four kids - Jake, 13; Lyla, 9; Jayla, 7; and Paul, 21 (whom the couple adopted) - also get involved helping with smaller tasks.
"I think it's every mother's dream to do something they really love and are truly passionate about [professionally] without having to give up family time," Sopel said. "First and foremost, I am a mom and wife, and this [business] will always come secondary to that. But it is great that I don't have to choose. Having four children and a family, this is the perfect situation for me now. The store is two minutes from my house, and my kids walk here from school. And I have a home office where my seamstress is based. I'm really lucky."
The idea for the shop came suddenly to Sopel one morning - and that was all it took to get her started.
"It was really quick how this all happened," she explained. "I woke up one morning and thought I'd get a retail space and just do this. I secured the space in one day, and then I just started working from there."
Already on board was a seamstress, who Sopel started working with about five years ago when she first began selling custom decorative pillows made from her ample collection of current and vintage designer scarves.
"I did this for my own home. I would take my vintage Louis Vuittons or any of my scarves - I must have 300 to 400 in my collection - and I'd make them into decorative pillows or I'd fame them and hang them in my house instead of art. They were the art on the walls," Sopel explained.
Soon enough, she said, "people came over and asked to buy [my pillows]."
Sopel made custom pieces for friends from her own scarf collection, then demand increased until she finally realized she could turn her hobby into a design and retail business.
Now, with a 500-squarefoot, three-room store, which she compared in look and feel "to a Parisian apartment," she is offering both finished and custom- made designer scarf decorative pillows. Her line currently numbers somewhere between 50 to 100 styles, she said, and includes a separate collection of her favorite kind of throws - cashmere.
Sopel's design know-how stems from the "plenty of experience" she has garnered over the past decade.
"I got married very young and never went to college - with my husband's career, it was impossible for me," she explained. "We've been married 10 years, and in that time we've lived in 11 different homes, and I redesigned and decorated each one of them. Whenever we've had to move, I've picked a house that had to be redone and it kept me busy. So it's true that I have no formal design background. But I do have plenty of experience."
To keep her style fresh, Sopel said she designed and decorated each of her homes differently. "Some have been very traditional. My house now is more French and is done in blacks, whites and grays. I've done one house in which every wall was chocolate brown. No house is ever the same."
Her staple: Chandeliers. "I love them, and I put them in every room."
Now, she hopes her dec pillows will also become a central component in her retail business. Sopel's on-staff seamstress cuts and sews almost the entirety of the pillow line - which is dominated by scarf looks but also includes some regular fabric styles.
"I go shopping a lot and whatever fabric hits me at the time, I buy it and go with it," Sopel said. "Scarves are my main focus but we have tons of other looks like velvet and more that I have made from high-end fabrics" by the likes of Scalamandre, Osborne & Little, Schumacher, Kravet, Robert Allen, Cowtan & Tout, and Brunschwig & Fils.
"People bring in a lot of their own scarves, too," Sopel added.
Simple Privileges also carries a limited assortment of designer branded pillows, including Trina Turk and Designers Guild, "but that makes up the smallest portion of our business."
In the near future, she plans to expand the merchandise breadth.
By November, Sopel expects her collection to be entirely private label - wearing the Simple Privileges brand - and she also plans on including furniture in her offerings.
Guests invited to the exclusive grand-opening event later this summer will get a preview of the new furniture line and the private label program, which will include dec pillows, throws and a candle collection.
Sopel does not intend to add bedding or bath. She instead wants to stay focused on selling "the finishing touches of a room - all the fun things that complete the look."
As for a design theme - she is flexible. "I'm going with whatever I feel like at the moment."
She does want to build on her supplier list for her dec pillows and throws, as she is open to finding new resources to expand her private label offerings.
A revamped e-commerce website - www.simpleprivileges. com - is also in the works and expected to be up and running by this fall.