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Hubs for scrubs do a bustling business

By PAUL SWIDER
Published April 25, 2007


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When Phyllis Gagliardo opened her medical scrubs business two years ago in the shadow of St. Anthony's Hospital, she had one concept of the enterprise. Then life happened.

"Originally, it was going to be a wholesale business," she said from her tiny storefront on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. "Then the shop took on a life of its own."

Gagliardo is now moving Scrubs * Duds to a refurbished location five times larger on Fourth Street. She has gone from a back-office commodity operation to more of a boutique for institutional clothing and medical accessories.

Her experience in the scrubs business is not unique.

"We were looking at selling medical equipment and doing scrubs part time," said Lillian Baker-Bryant of Midtown Medical Scrubs on 16th Street S. She has flipped that focus, and now "our business has really taken off."

Once just bland, shapeless uniforms, scrubs have started to diversify, as has the customer base. Gagliardo sells to maintenance and lawn service workers looking for something comfortable to wear, while others are getting into fashion scrubs.

"There's quite a bit more fashion than you would think," said Sue DeJarnette, who is getting ready to expand Scrubs N Stuff on Tyrone Boulevard. "I'm surprised what people will wear, even lace, but a lot of the business is not the blood-and-guts side."

Medical office workers buy scrubs; so do dental hygienists and veterinary workers, DeJarnette said. These people want to identify themselves as medical, but still want to look good, so scrub manufacturers are accommodating. She said Baby Phat has designer scrubs, and a new line tied to the TV show Grey's Anatomy is coming along soon.

"That'll take off," she said.

Baker-Bryant said she sells scrubs people wear when going out, but she also has college logo scrubs, and her NASCAR scrubs "sell like hotcakes."

Gagliardo says she also does landmark business around Halloween, when people need costumes. She said she also sells various colorful designs to people who just want something comfortable to wear around the house. Some use scrubs as pajamas.

"I never knew there was so much to learn about scrubs," she said.

Many customers still shop for scrubs as generic goods, which is why online sales are the biggest competitor for scrubs stores, the women said. They all emphasize customer service as a means to excel.

Gagliardo gets into consultative selling, helping students and new professionals to choose the right pieces for their jobs: Nurses need more pockets than lab techs, for instance, she said.

She said her business also has a caring atmosphere. Her father, Joe, retired from the New York City police and from running Huggers restaurant, is the business mind while she handles customers and her 13-year-old son, Keegan, makes deliveries on his bike.

"It's a family affair," she said. "I guess that means something in the world of today."

The attractiveness of the business is not lost on others. Gagliardo said she routinely gets offers from others who want to buy her out.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.

Sources for scrubs

Scrubs * Duds

Now at 515 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

Starting May 1, at 2620 Fourth St. N

894-6569

Midtown Medical Scrubs

901 16th St. S

898-5850

Scrubs N Stuff

3993 Tyrone Blvd.

347-6750

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 23:53:06]


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