WEST CHESTER—After 89 years in the business, Jane Chalfant is retiring. Well, in a way, she is.
Patrick and Kiki Comerford, longtime owners of women’s clothing stores, are considering retiring and selling the borough’s flagship business at 123 N. High Street.
Patrick Comerford’s parents, Eileene and Richard, owned the clothing store before he and his wife.
“We are still looking to hand over to another owner, possibly in a new location,” said Patrick Comerford. “I spent my life here.”
“It’s bittersweet,” Patrick and Kiki Comerford said in unison.
The Comerfords adapted to a changing West Chester and an evolving fashion business.
“Over the years, since the 80s, fashion has changed dramatically and it was our job to change with it,” Patrick said.
People will miss Kiki Comerford the most.
“The people we work with and the clientele we’ve met here are our friends,” said Kiki Comerford. “We will miss the buzz on a busy day in the rear changing rooms.”
The couple will continue to work together as they always have as guardians of their preserved farmhouse and historic home in East Bradford.
They hope to be able to visit their children in Boston and Denver more often.
“Our goal is to navigate the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Bahamas and possibly Florida,” said Patrick Comerford.
The couple will miss shopping trips to New York.
“Kiki’s integrity and kindness are held in high esteem by everyone in New York City and will be missed by all of these people we have worked with for over 30 years,” Patrick said.
Kiki is delighted.
“I’m excited to do something different,” she said. “We could have continued like this.
“It was our choice.”
During the Depression era, in September 1933, a new sign on North High Street was hung, “JANE CHALFANT” TOWN and COUNTRY CLOTHES-ACCESSORIES. The business grew and in 1937 the property at 123 North High Street, Lawyer’s Row was purchased by Jane Chalfant and Winifred Sharp.
The building has been modernized, but the owners have tried to retain the old vibe with small paneled storefronts and a colonial facade.
In 1949, after World War II, the founders purchased the William Hayes property at 121 North High Street and attached it to the store, giving it twice as much space as before.
“Jane Chalfant has always believed in treating everyone who enters our home as if they are our guests,” said Patrick Comerford.
In 1955, Jane Chalfant and Sharp decided to retire. At the same time, Richard and Eileene Comerford were crossing the country in a Buick Road Master and Airstream trailer. They had decided to return home from California, to their hometown of New York, to start a new life with their infant twins.
Richard Comerford’s sister introduced them to Jane Chalfant at a showroom in New York, and soon after Jane Chalfant was convinced she had found the new owners. The Comerfords had little funds, but Eileene had experience working at Saks 5th Avenue. After serving in World War II, Richard became District Manager of Lerner Stores. Eileene had also worked with her parents on USO shows hosted by Best and Co. during World War II.
The Comerfords owned the shop and paid off Jane Chalfant’s loan in 5 years.
In 1962, the elder Comerford’s purchased the Boy Scout Building at 125 North High Street and continued to expand the store. The boutique flourished through the 60s and 70s, representing the original designer lines of Lilly Pulitzer, Diana Von Furstenberg and many other iconic lines.
The creation of shopping centers continued to present challenges and the Comerfords adapted and prospered until they were ready to retire in 1989.
Meanwhile, in 1983, their son Patrick returned home from his job as a freelance television cameraman at the United Nations and New York sports venues and joined his parents in the business while pursuing his freelance career in Philadelphia. as a sports cameraman.
On days off, he returned to the shop where he grew up and decided he wanted Jane Chalfant to continue into the future rather than sell the business. In 1989, Patrick’s new wife, Kiki, decided to quit her teaching career at the Chester County Intermediate Unit and join the shop.
Patrick and KiKi bought the boutique in 1995 and remodeled it in 2003 to reflect the laid-back lifestyle that prevailed in the fashion industry. At the same time, the couple introduced Kiki Boutique as a boutique within a boutique to attract the next generation of shoppers and maintain the classic lines of the Jane Chalfant.
“Overall, for 89 years, the store survived the challenges of 1933, WWII, 911, the Great Recession, the months of COVID 19 closures and the two years that followed,” said said Patrick.
The Comerford family is very visible in the community. Patrick sits on non-profit boards and Kiki has produced numerous fashion shows to raise money for local organizations.
Kiki is grateful.
“We would like to thank our community for their support and also thank the hundreds of talented women who have contributed to the success of the ‘Jane Chalfant family’ over the decades,” she said. “Special thanks to Lisa Bilinski who has been with Kiki and Patrick for 30 years.
“We will miss all of our customers and are so grateful for the wonderful phone calls, emails and letters we have received.”
“We hope to look less and less back as time goes by and strive to look forward as we shape our new lives without the store and enjoy what life has in store for us,” Patrick said. .
Many customers have called and written to the Comerfords.
“Shopping at Jane Chalfant was a unique and wonderful experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives,” wrote one longtime customer. “Not only was the atmosphere amazing and the clothing selection great, but your customer service was exemplary.
“Lisa in particular has helped us time and time again to find the perfect outfit, one of a kind accessory, ‘wow factor’ birthday present.”