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The Dressing Room

The economy may be frayed, but business at The Dressing Room in Wallingford is better than ever, perhaps because of owner Chris Rinere’s motto: “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” For Rinere, it’s not just about appearances—she recognizes the value of a returning customer. “My business is built on people and my relationships with people,” she says. “I so appreciate my customers. They have a choice about where to shop and they are choosing to shop here. I recognize that every day.” The newly expanded store carries everything from cocktail dresses to jeans to kickin’ embroidered boots from Turkey.

“We have dressed customers for the Grammy and Emmy Awards, and even for a dinner with President Obama,” says Rinere. She has carried designers including Nicole Miller, Sue Wong, Aysha Saeed and Alberto Makali from Spain, before, Rinere says with a smile, “he became too mainstream.”

Rinere’s growing empire—she opened a boutique at the Marketplace at Venetucci Home in Westbrook—all started with a sarong-like skirt she designed five years ago. Rinere, a New Yorker by birth and an interior designer by trade, was a stay-at-home mom of three living in Madison. One day, after playing tennis, she lamented that she had no time to change and wished for something cute to throw on over her tennis skirt. Thus was born Go Girl Wrapperz. Rinere enlisted her wardrobe wizard and master tailor, Elvis, to hand-cut and sew hundreds of the pre-tied wrap skirts. They peddled them for years on the show circuit, until the booming business brought them to Wallingford to set up shop in the town where Rinere’s daughter attended Choate. The line that started it all has become so successful that the New York showroom rep who launched True Religion Brand Jeans and Von Dutch recently made Rinere an offer she couldn’t refuse— one that would take Go Girl Wrapperz global. But Rinere is committed to making her line in the U.S. “Small business and manufacturing is really what’s going to turn this country around again,” she says. “In the garment industry, things are still created by hand and orders are still written by hand. It’s probably the only business that hasn’t been completely mechanized or computerized—it’s a person-to-person business.” 3 N. Main St., Wallingford, thedressingroomboutique.com, gogirlwrapperz.com.

—Liz Grey Godbout