What started as a boutique women’s clothing store at 510 Broadway in New Haven with some internet sales in 2015 has come full circle. Today, Lane 201, which gets 97% of its revenue from the internet, recently purchased a warehouse on Indiana 930 and is growing so fast that owners Jill Hesterman and her brother Eric Byanski are searching for larger accommodations.
“We plan to continue to operate the retail store,” Byanski said, “because a lot of customers still like to come in, touch the fabric and try on garments. We had been growing steadily and had a good 2019. The pandemic, however, shifted everything. Online sales became the only way to shop. We’re up 400% over last year.
“Six months ago we moved into this warehouse and we’re already outgrowing it. Orders have snowballed, coming in from our email list of 150,000 customers and 110,000 Instagram followers. It’s a good position to be in, but our employees are simply overwhelmed.”
“With quick expansion comes growing pains,” Hesterman said. “We started out with just us and one salesperson. Now we have 13 employees.” Five years ago Hesterman and Byanski would order four packs of merchandise that included two small, two medium and two large sizes each. Now they order from 50 to 100 packs and, if the items become popular, will buy out the vendor’s stock.
COVID-19 shut down many of their Los Angeles vendors, and forecasting became a big issue. Orders were delayed for weeks, and the U.S. Post Office struggled with the exploding volume because shopping had shifted to the internet with everything being shipped. “We’re trying to smooth out our process and organize our shipping. We used to be like Amazon and get orders in the mail the same day. Now it’s more like two to three days. Even at that, some customers complain that we’re too slow. Unfortunately,” Hesterman said, “there aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Byanski, who is the firm’s accountant, marketing guru and website designer, has his sights set on continuing to grow Lane 201 to revenues reaching eight figures. “We started out displaying casual, chic clothing to women ranging from 18 to 50. That demographic has shifted to women from 18 to 38. About 77% of our sales come from that age group. We’ve had to make some shifts in our marketing over the years. Marketing and shipping are presently our big expenses," he said.
The Snider High School graduates both studied business. She did a year at Indiana University-Purdue University before joining her father’s business, Graphics Output, for four years. He had a year at IPFW before earning a business degree from Indiana University. They started Lane 201 in New Haven at 510 Broadway where he was operating Enviro Ink, a printer ink cartridges business.
“School,” Byanski said, “teaches you about business, but you don’t really learn how to run a business and deal with all the various challenges until you jump in and do it. So far, it’s been working well for us.”
Lane 201, which was named after the address of their parent’s cottage on Turkey Lake, has its clothing and accessories for sale at www.lane201.com.