by Jeremy Jones
Allison is 14 years-old, Jennifer is 17, Gina is 40, Carol is 62 and Jane is 75. There they are in the same room. They don’t know each other and probably don’t even notice each other, but they share a special connection, a mutual mission. They’re shopping at Mango, the “refreshing clothing” store for juniors and women at 8442 Germantown Avenue.
In an age when computer technology, the frenzy of social media and rapidly morphing modes of communication widen the margins of generation gaps, Mango is an anomaly, a winning rarity; a retail success where the target market is an all-inclusive blend, from tweeners to seniors. Six decades separate the birth dates of Allison and Jane, but Mango is their age-appropriate common ground for fashion and fun.
In the early 80’s, Peggy Garvey opened a women’s apparel store in Wildwood, N.J. A former model with years of retail experience at various Chestnut Hill shops, Garvey named the store “Mango” because it sounded tropical and exotic, and would be open just for the summer season.
“Mom wanted to carry cool clothes from hot countries,” said Garvey’s daughter, Tara Alexander.
In 1988, Alexander, who was working in the retail industry in Philadelphia, noticed a “For Rent” sign at 8622 Germantown Ave. and suggested to her mom that Chestnut Hill would be a great place to have another Mango, one that would be open year-round.
“I wanted it to be a little young, a little hip and funky,” said Garvey, who knew the fashion plate on the Hill was considered quite conservative at that time.
In the world of retail marketing and sales, it is remarkable that Garvey’s original concept, her savvy notion to custom design a bold message for women who want to wear comfortable, affordable, hip clothing and have access to similarly defined accessories hasn’t changed. Garvey set the trend – her trend, a market niche with soul.
The loose-fitting, relaxed and unfettered Bohemian fashion and social statement of the 60’s has repeatedly surfaced in various guises. Today, it’s hotter than ever and known as Boho chic, and Mango hasn’t missed a beat.
“It’s always been our style,” said Garvey.
“It’s for the young and young at heart – the free spirit,” said Alexander.
So, how did our distinguished group of free-spirited shoppers do?
Allison, a Springside Chestnut Hill student shopping with her mom, bought a sterling silver ring with a lotus motif for $20.
“It’s my favorite store,” she said.
Jennifer, visiting from California, fell in love with the “Dammit Dolls” but purchased a Philly-centric T-shirt for $30.
“I come here after I get paid!” said Gina, of Wyndmoor, who bought two friendship bracelets ($8 each), and a “beautiful, whimsical, happy” mobile for $20, for her friend who is returning to France.
Carol from Maple Glen was shopping with her sister and purchased a colorful wear-with-everything seed-bead necklace made in Guatemala for $25.
At 75, Jane, of Huntingdon Valley, isn’t about trying to look young, but she likes “the chic, original, young look” you can find at Mango. For her trip to Vienna she purchased a crisp white oversized cropped top from Eucalyptus for $48.
Most of the clothing fabrics are 100 percent cotton or a cotton blend and great for wash and wear. Sizes, depending on the line, run from XS -XL. Also, you may not believe it ‘til you see it for yourself, but rarely will you find an item at Mango with a price tag of $100 or more. Garvey kept “young marrieds and students” in mind when she created her shop, so “good prices” were always part of the plan.
Hot picks – sunglasses, from funky to Jackie O to retro, $12; Infinity scarves, $18-$24; colorful bandeaus, $15; oversized “Beatles,” “Nirvana,” “Freedom” tank tops, perfect for over a bandeau, $15; jewelry by local artisans, Sultana and Saffron, $30-$45; Wildberry citronella incense yard sticks in fragrances of lavender, lemon and sandalwood, $5 for a pack of five.
My picks – long and open lightweight cardigan by Survival – dress it up, or pair it with jeans for equally classic looks, perfection for travel, light gray and soft heather, $55; ivory laser-cut eyelet two-tiered tank/blouse – so, so feminine; 75 percent silk, $32; navy/cream short floral one-piece romper (very “in” right now), with flutter overlay, $44; “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful,” says the generously sized, coated canvas tote bag, $38.
Garvey closed the Wildwood Mango in 1997 so she could focus exclusively on the shop in Chestnut Hill, which moved from 8622 Germantown Ave. to its current location in 2009.
“It’s just wonderful to be a part of the community,” said Garvey. “It’s been a love fest between us and Chestnut Hill. Coming here and being home is not too much different.”