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Elyse Walker has retail in her blood.

She started her career opening her own outpost of her family’s Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Capretto Shoes on Madison Avenue before moving west to build a fleet of multibrand luxury boutiques in California.

She was a pioneer in L.A.’s wealthy Pacific Palisades neighborhood when she opened her namesake women’s store there in 1999. Catering to local clients such as Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson and Maria Bell, she helped pump the market for Rick Caruso’s high-end shopping center Palisades Village.

Through recessions, Hollywood labor strikes and a pandemic, she has not only survived, but thrived, opening three new stores this year, two of them in New York, and relaunching her website to support her omnichannel business, which is approaching $100 million in revenue.

WWD’s 2023 Best-Performing Retailer, Small Cap, now has six Elyse Walker stores that are among the highest performing multibrand fashion boutiques in the U.S. with $5,000 to $6,000 in sales per square foot (not counting stock room space) in the larger Pacific Palisades, Newport Beach and Madison Avenue locations. Her smaller stores in Calabasas, St. Helena and TriBeCa, and her two more casual Towne stores, do $1,200 to $1,800 a square foot.

“I’m proud of my team for rolling up their sleeves, we had a lot of growth this year, and now we’re starting to find the balance between new and old labels, going back to basics with in-store experience after we spent so much time on digital. Next year we’re going to be 25, and now that we’re coming up for air, we are so happy to dive back into our DNA, which is women supporting women,” said Walker, who hosts one to four events with a charitable component each month in her stores to support a client’s project or a local school.

Overall, her company has raised more than $16 million for charity, including cancer organizations, which are near and dear to Walker’s heart, having lost her mom, Barbara Feder, to breast cancer.

“I still have clients from my mom’s shoe store.…I used to help Sylvia Yasgur, and her in-laws owned Yasgur’s Farm,” she said of the Bethel, N.Y., dairy farm that hosted Woodstock in 1969. “Sylvia still shops with me. We’ve always had a following in New York because of my roots. In the early years, people would walk in the store in L.A. and recognize a New York sensibility. We opened with suiting, which was unusual being miles from the beach. Somehow we’ve kept that.”

Mom, Barbara, opened her Capretto shoe store in 1983, and her father, Larry Feder, is still in the shoe business as a wholesaler.

Last June, Walker came full circle, opening the doors to her own 6,000-square-foot New York flagship on Madison Avenue at 74th Street, which followed on the heels of her 3,000-square-foot store on North Moore Street in TriBeCa.

“My parents taught me there is no job in my company that you would do that I wouldn’t do, it’s all important,” she said, recounting spending a recent weekend on the floor of the Madison Avenue store, slipping shoes onto women’s feet, just like she did when she was a kid.

Walker’s buying point of view could be described as New York sophisticated through a casual California lens. “I don’t think we’ve ever put the perfect blazer, blouse, cashmere V-neck or cardigan on sale; if they are soft and have a good fit, we can never have enough of them,” she said.

She stocks 250 labels, including Carolina Herrera, Jason Wu, Nili Lotan, Saint Laurent, Celine, Khaite, Loewe, Alex Perry, Altuzarra, Bottega Veneta, Gabriela Hearst, newcomers Eterne, Sablyn and more.

“We’re working really hard to bring in some new designers people haven’t seen before, so we always throw in a zinger. At the TriBeCa store, we threw in three Paloma Barcela shoes, and it’s probably our number-one seller, because they’re great shoes for $345. We’re known for designer but contemporary and advanced contemporary are equally as important, possibly more profitable, five times the units and equal in sales.”

For fall, she’s been selling lots of outerwear, flat shoes, and is starting to see an increase in western styles.

“We are loving all these chocolate browns, forest and olive greens and burnt reds, that whole palette. And Max Mara has been awesome, we’re about to do an event and extended assortment in four of our stores. They make the best coats but this year we went into puffers, and they are phenomenal. We sell their pants and cashmere. The fit and quality is fantastic.”

In August, she set down roots in California Wine Country, opening a 2,800-square-foot store in a historic 1800s building in St. Helena, Calif.

Walker and her real estate developer husband, David Walker, bought a house in the area in 2019 and started spending most of their time there during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elyse Walker St. Helena TUBAY YABUT

“It was very reminiscent of when I moved to Pacific Palisades in 1996 and opened the first Elyse Walker store there in 1999,” she said of the retail-starved monied communities.

Later this week, the St. Helena store is hosting an installation of Valentino’s “Black Tie” collection. The Italian luxury brand specifically chose the Napa Valley store for the activation; Bottega Veneta also chose the store for a handbag installation two years ago.

“Overall, it’s casual but we do more event dressing at this store than at almost any other and we have to work really hard at making sure two people don’t show up at the same event wearing the same thing. There are so many events every day at the wineries, at restaurants, art shows, music shows,” she said.

One of the secrets to Walker’s success has been her in-house Memo styling program; her 25 stylists account for 50 percent of total sales, often selling clients merchandise before it even hits the floor or the web.

“We’ve been doing styling suites — we don’t call them pop-ups in Chicago, San Francisco and we have Arizona next week, and they’ve been really successful, because our website allows all of us to see inventory in all eight locations. Now we’re seeing our digital stylists take advantage of brick-and-mortar, too.”

For 2023, her website sales plus online sales pulling from stores will be north of 15 percent of her business.

The stores host one to four events a week supporting a designer or jewelry brand. “We just had Brett Neale in Newport, we did a very small curated Hamptons jewelry event at someone’s home this summer. We love hosting private things with clients because our company likes to get to know you. We like to have a longer relationship to you,” she said.

“One client value to us in our lifetime relationship is worth over $100,000 and a really good client is worth over $1 million.…We’re planting seeds for the next five or 10 years. That kind of touch is different from online where you want to sell one unit to 100 people. We want to sell 100 units to one person over our entire relationship. And we work hard at it.’

Over the years, she has built a client database with more than 125,000 names.

Her Elysewalker Label clothing collection, including T-shirts, shirting and cashmere, priced $95 to $695, is an expanding category, with new silhouettes being reordered within 10 days. “It’s worth it for my team to take their time because when we do it right, it’s a culmination of us listening to what we’re missing on the floor, and what the client wishes we had.”

But she’s being cautious about keeping it contained to 10 percent or less of sales. “I’ve seen stores really get diluted and then they aren’t in business anymore,” Walker said, cautioning against letting private label infiltrate the other brands.

Still self-funded, she’s been looking for a growth partner for a while. Her Towne stores, selling mostly denim, T-shirts and sneakers, are under-realized and could be in every high-end neighborhood, from the Hamptons to South Miami, Walker said.

“When we went out in 2020 to raise, everyone was anti brick-and-mortar. Now everyone is pro brick-and-mortar because web business is soft, return rates are out of control and digital marketing costs grew exponentially. We’re newbies so we’re still testing all the waters…but it will happen; it’s like meeting your partner for life.”

She’s not looking for an exit, however. “In a perfect world, I’d love to work on branding and opening stores…and maybe be out of the CEO role one day. I love brand building, and working with designers new and old.”