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Laser & BrewerLaser & BrewerIf you are tired of the 'same old, same old' when looking for women's clothing you should take a drive east on Route 13 to Laser & Brewer.  The little yellow building across from NYSEG belies what is inside.  Racks of attractively styled clothes are artfully displayed with jewelry and accessories.  The stylish garments are made from interesting fabrics, and just as you begin thinking 'I can't afford something that nice' you glance at the price tag.  Then you look again, because surely it can't be right.

But it is!  At Laser & Brewer it is not only possible to get stylish clothing at affordable prices, but it is what you come to expect there on an ongoing basis.  "We try to give you a New York look at amazing prices," says owner Peggy Laser Brewer.  "And we put you together.  That is one of the reasons people like to come here.  We tell them the truth.  We have high quality at an amazing price."

Brewer says the truth doesn't have to hurt. She and her staff go out of their way to make sure customers leave looking and feeling great by suggesting items that go together to best compliment them.  "Some women don't know how to do that, so we give them that confidence," Brewer says.  "They look like a million bucks.  A lot of women say, 'You talked me into this.  And you were right.  Everyone says I look wonderful.'  I don't do that too often, but with some people I just know I have to."


Brewer goes to New York City once a month to find new items.  She uses a buying office to steer her toward fashions they think she would like.  With hard work and tenacity she tracks down garments with a metropolitan flair that are priced right that will go over well in this area.  "I'm looking for something a little bit more interesting," she says.  "Different from any of the department stores, so people don't see themselves coming or going.  That's what we do."

Brewer's parents had a women's' apparel shop near New Paltz that did very well in the 1970s.  They suggested that a shop like theirs could do well in the Ithaca area, and, putting their money where their mouths were, financed the new business in 1976.   In the first year she expanded from two to three rooms in her home.  Inside of her first three years she built the current freestanding store next door.  That worked well for the stay-at-home mom whose customers often found her children, cat, and dog with her in the store.  The business became profitable within a year, allowing Brewer paid them back, eventually to buy them out entirely.  She estimates that customers come from about a 50 mile radius, from Syracuse to Sayer, though most come from the nearby Ithaca and Cortland areas.

Brewer likes to mix things up with special events every week that provide additional reasons for customers to come back.  Last week she had racks of clothing for 75% off.  Before that the store hosted spa days, where customers could get a massage, a manicure, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.  She is working on 'Dear Santa' cards that women can fill out with items they want from the store, then hand the cards over to their significant other to both ease shopping choices and get something they really want.

In addition to outfits, the shop carries a collection of jewelry and accessories.  Though they don't carry shoes they will often recommend shoes that go with an outfit to create a wholly integrated look.  In keeping with the 'whole look' approach the store recently began carrying a form fitting undergarment called Spanx.  "We'll give them many choices, and they usually find something that goes," Brewer says.  "And jewelry makes a big difference, as does a little makeup.  It's all those little things.  And I can't tell you what Spanx does, Spanx and a bra, you're like a new woman!"

Peggy Laser Brewer (left) and Merchandising Director Mayre Spaker

Brewer says her sales staff is exceptional, and that customers can expect the same enthusiastic attention from any of them.  "Everyone is really committed to the business," she says.  "They're enthusiastic.  It doesn't make any difference if I'm waiting on customers or Mayra's waiting on them.  They're going to get just as good service.  I have amazing ladies, and we have fun together."

In addition to acting as the shop's sole buyer, Brewer takes care of the accounting, payroll and all the business functions.  But connecting with customers is what really drives her.  "My favorite part is working with the customers," she says.  "When somebody who feels really badly about herself comes in -- to make them leave with a smile on their face and feeling like a million bucks -- this is a job where you get positively reinforced every day.  They're so happy someone's helped them, that they look pretty, and they're going to be more than presentable when they go to whatever they are going to."

That's key to Laser & Brewer's success.  "The biggest thing is that we want people to look great.  We really do," she says.  "I like to hear when they come back that they got so many compliments.  That just makes our day."

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