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Dress, Dine, and Decompress

Dan Cutrona & Dan Dewey It is a hot Thursday morning in July. All week, temperatures have climbed into the low 90s. Cape Cod beaches have been jammed with visitors and year-rounders looking for relief from the heat. Rick Penn, co-owner and president of Puritan Cape Cod, walks to the front of his expansive store located on Main Street, Hyannis, and looks out from 18,000 square feet of air-conditioned elegance at the crowded sidewalks. “It’s going to be a really busy day,” says Penn happily. “People are tired of going to the beaches.”

Penn, dressed in a hand-tailored Puritan suit, knows what he is talking about. As the third generation of Penns to own and manage Puritan Cape Cod, he is adept at anticipating the moods of Puritan’s buying public. Rick works at the retailing Main Street magnet hands-on six days a week, alongside his first cousin, Puritan Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jim Penn. The cousins are the latest in a long line of hard-working Penn retailers, following in the footsteps of Milton and Howard Penn, who brought the business to prominence in the last half of the twentieth century. The Penns have come far since the days when Rick and Jim’s grandfather, Abraham Penn, emigrated from Russia in the 1920s and worked as a street peddler selling cloth on the streets of Boston.

Dan Cutrona & Dan Dewey

Soon, Puritan’s doors swing open and a tall, impressively built man walks in to the men’s department, obviously in a hurry. Rick, who learned long ago how to judge a customer on a mission, watches as one of Puritan’s veteran sales associates welcomes the customer. “I need two suits by Monday morning for a meeting I didn’t plan on having,” says the man, accompanied by his wife. “And I would like them to be high-quality suits.” After explaining that he has a second home in Chatham, the man also asks for shirts and ties, and is whisked into Puritan’s handsome dressing rooms.

“Everything comes back our grandfather’s motto,” says Jim Penn. “We would rather make a friend than make a sale. It’s not just one transaction, it’s a lifetime of transactions.”

Across the floor, Rick Penn approaches the customer’s wife, who wanders into Puritan’s bright, attractively designed Vineyard Vines lifestyle section. After striking up a conversation, he quickly learns that the woman loves spas. “Follow me,” says Penn to the surprised shopper, leading her to a corner of the store where a sign leads downstairs to Solstice Spa. Penn and his new Main Street convert head to the posh salon, where almost a dozen women have escaped from the heat to be pampered with manicures, hair cuts, facials, and massage therapy.

Professionally trained staff work in the spa’s cool sophisticated interiors, painted a restful coastal blue. Amenities at Solstice include four massage rooms designed to accommodate couples massages, a large steam shower, custom-built pedicure chairs, a private hair salon area with five stylists, and even a “sanctuary room” where customers can enjoy healthy refreshments.

Sheryl Baba, who co-founded Solstice with Kimberlee Schuler in 2002 in Hyannis’s Independence Park, explains that the spa had outgrown their original space. Solstice heard about the available Puritan space after partnering with the Penns for several special events. “We were looking for at least 2500 square feet, in a good neighborhood, with great parking,” says Sheryl. “We love it here­—and we share a lot of the same clients. The Puritan shopper is someone who usually takes good care of themselves. Main Street has changed so much—there is just a great energy here now. And partnering with Puritan is great—they have been in business for 90 years and I am so flattered that they wanted to do business with us.”

Solstice Spa is just part of this destination experience marketing concept created by the Penns. In early July, the last piece of their marketing plan fell into place when the Naked Oyster, long a Route 132 favorite of discerning mid-Cape seafood lovers, opened in a new location—just off Hyannis Puritan’s main floor. The restaurant’s handsome pub-style spaces are attractively decorated featuring brick walls showcasing original art by Cape and Islands artists above gleaming hardwood floors. A comfortable Main Street lounge area, anchored by a spacious mahogany bar, flows to double doors that open right into Puritan Cape Cod.

Dan Cutrona & Dan Dewey

“We share many of the same customers,” says Florence Lowell, co-owner of the Naked Oyster with her husband. ‘We love this location­—Main Street has changed a lot in the last two years and is so much more dynamic.” Lowell—who notes that the Naked Oyster can go through more than 1,000 locally farm-grown fresh oysters on a busy summer day—says her new executive chef, Carlos Reyes, has flourished in the new restaurant. “He is an adventurous chef who is not afraid to try new things and this has been a great experience for him,” says Lowell, before accepting compliments from a customer for raw oysters served with a touch of ginger and Wasabi. Reyes, who worked as a sous chef for the Chatham Bars Inn and Brewster’s Ocean Edge before coming to the Naked Oyster, says his favorite cuisine features “interesting flavors with a touch of Asian and Caribbean” flair.

Lowell says that the Naked Oyster is also planning to open an elegant function room/wine cellar tasting area adjacent to the spa. “It’s going to be great—customers can wander to all three places. For wedding parties it will be ideal; you can have refreshments in the function room, come in and have spa services. With these three businesses, we are a real lifestyle destination,” says Sheryl Baba.

“We call this concept, ‘Dress, dine, and decompress,” says Rick, before heading back to the Puritan men’s department, just in time to help his customer select the perfect ties for his Monday power meeting.

Both Penns grew up working on the floor of the store and know first-hand how the buying public’s tastes have evolved. In 2010, Puritan Cape Cod is a multi-level shopping experience with four locations in Falmouth, Mashpee, and Chatham. The stores feature well-integrated departments for women’s, men’s, and outdoor fashions including several high-end lines like Vineyard Vines, Burberry, Eileen Fischer, ISDA, and at the Hyannis store, the only Northface Concept Shop in southeastern Massachusetts.

“The bar raises all the time,” says Jim. “It keeps going up with all the retail options that folks have today. People are starved for time, which means that retailers really need to figure out what’s best for each customer. As a retailer you have to love what you do—it’s a 24/7 job. It’s great that we can work from home with laptops and Blackberries. But still, you have to get up every day and be happy about going to work.”

Meanwhile, back in the men’s department, a pleased businessman laughs when he learns that his wife has just made two spa appointments at Solstice Spa. “She loves spas,” he says. Rick Penn smiles and then points across the store floor to the attractively lit, cool spaces of the Naked Oyster where staff are getting ready to open for lunch. “And when she’s done, you can have a great seafood dinner at the Naked Oyster,” says Penn as the sales associate takes the man’s final measurements for Puritan’s experienced custom-tailoring department.

Such service is a matter of course at Puritan, where the Penns have refined the art of personalized care for every customer from the man off the street to members of the Kennedy family and other Cape and Island celebrities. “We’ve been very fortunate to basically outfit three generations of the Kennedy family,” says Jim Penn. “These always know—like all Puritan clients know, that they will be taken care of and things will be handled the right way, which is very important to us.”

Watching Puritan’s morning’s activities closely is Max Penn, Rick’s 17-year-old son. Like his father, Max wears a button-down shirt and an attractive tie. Even though it is a perfect summer day, he seems content to be inside, helping to man Puritan’s sales staff. “I really like working with people,” says Max. “I like being the fourth generation to work at Puritan.”

Rick Penn watches his son proudly. “We start them out here when they are this tall,” says Penn, gesturing to the sales register counter. It seems a given that 10 or 20 years from now, Max will be welcoming shoppers in on hot summer days to a Puritan store somewhere on Cape Cod. Somehow you know that this Penn will have new ideas, safeguarding Puritan Cape Cod as a famous place to visit.

“Everything comes back our grandfather’s motto,” says Jim Penn. “We would rather make a friend than make a sale. It’s not just one transaction, it’s a lifetime of transactions.”

About

Susan Dewey is the associate publisher and editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. She lives in Centerville on Cape Cod and enjoys gardening, sailing, walking on the beach, gallery hopping, cooking with fresh seafood, and exploring Cape Cod and the Islands from shore to shore.

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