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In the red is good for business

By MARY ANN KOSLASKY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

Citrus County is home to more than 30 chapters of the Red Hat Society, and the count continues to grow.

It had to be expected that area businesses would be affected in some way. After all, women have to buy their society getups somewhere.

At Southern Charm by Ninnah, 207 N Apopka Ave. in Inverness, owner Ninnah Soladean has dedicated a room of her boutique to red hats, purple dresses and all the accoutrements that go with them.

Sales of Red Hat items "have definitely grown," Soladean said. "I can't get merchandise in fast enough to keep it in stock. Chapters open daily. It's so uplifting to be around these ladies. They're a joy to work with."

Vickie LaMarche, owner of Victoria's Closet, 2780 N Florida Ave. in Hernando, has a display of red hats in the window facing U.S. 41.

"The cars go whizzing by, and when they spot the hats in the windows, they slam on the brakes, turn around and come back," said LaMarche, who also offers dresses and other accessories, including beautifully beaded hat pins.

"I'm delighted to see them come in," LaMarche said. "They're very focused on what they are looking for."

The Renaissance Boutique & Shoppe, 773 SE U.S. 19 in Crystal River, features a corner near the front door with purple dresses and pant suits and red hats. A little searching among the vintage clothing turns up lavender and purple blouses and scarves.

And over on Citrus Avenue, La Te Da offers red boas and hats along with purple outfits.

Where once red hats and purple dresses might have been the stepsisters to the main clothing lines, they have become the Cinderellas going to the ball.

That will be more apparent than ever on Nov. 13, when Red Hatters will invade Inverness for a special day dedicated to them.

More than 650 women have snapped up tickets to one of the three tea party seatings to be held on the grounds of the McLeod House and catered by Chateau Chain Sezz. Soladean will provide a fashion show, picture opportunities and more.

Chef Keith Chancas will triple his staff for the day to serve tea and his special cranberry orange scones, complete with honey, clotted cream and jam.

The Red Hat crowd is not new to Chancas.

"I get at least one group a week," said Chancas, whose tea room is situated inside the McLeod House with Soladean's boutique. "I love it when they come in. I have a blast with them. They are always so happy."

What about the mechanics of serving 600-plus Red Hatters? Chancas laughed.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," he said.

Many local merchants will offer special discounts to Red Hat members on Nov. 13.

At Helen's Consignment Boutique, 130 N Pine Ave. in Inverness, owner Ann Modine plans to bring in extra red hats made by her sister Grace Bonnette, who owns Accents by Grace, just a few doors south at 106 N Pine Ave. She also will pull all the purple dresses and clothing from her stock and place them in a prominent place "to make it easier" for the Red Hat shoppers.

"It's worth every bit of effort to show off what Inverness has to offer," Modine said.

Bonnette will blow up purple and red balloons by the dozens for local businesses to decorate the area.

Although she's only seen a marginal increase in business until now, she is "looking around for more purple dresses" to add to her stock.

"I think it's great," Bonnette said. "It's just a good social club for women that doesn't require anything of them."

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