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Born and Thread

The Mitchells are all about service



Walk through the doors of Mitchells in Westport and you will find sumptuous Italian leather, elegant couture, and fine jewelry. But what isn’t as obvious to the eye is something as rare and precious as the luxury goods on display—a large family harmoniously running a successful business.

Approximately 90 percent of family businesses run by third-generation family members fail in the United States. The Mitchell family has managed not only to buck the trend, but even to recently expand the high-end clothing enterprise on the West Coast. “I’m tickled pink,” says chairman, and Wilton resident, Jack Mitchell, whose book Hug Your People has become a bible for customer service. Jack Mitchell’s father, Ed, opened the first store in 1958. He was an advertising and retail consultant in New York City, and at the end of one day stepped off the train and decided he was finished commuting. He and his wife Norma opened their first shop with three men’s suits hanging on plumbing racks and a coffee pot from home to make their customers feel welcome.

If there is an emblem that best represents the Mitchell family’s business philosophy, it is that coffee pot. “We genuinely care about people,” says vice chairman Bill Mitchell, Jack’s brother. Adds third-generation Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, VP of marketing and creative services, “My grandparents viewed this store as an extension of their home. We believe the store is about family so we’ve always made it a family-friendly store.” In fact, that coffee pot is now accompanied by a full-service espresso machine, soda fountain, candy, water bottles, and a children’s corner outfitted with books and toys.

In the corporate offices at the Mitchells in Westport is a veritable potpourri of Mitchells. In addition to Jack, his wife and general merchandise manager Linda, and Bill, you will find the aforementioned Andrew, and two of Jack’s other sons, co-presidents Russ and Bob.

The family also owns Richards in Greenwich, run by Bill’s son Chris. Marshs in Huntington, Long Island, is captained by Bill’s son Chris. And at the helm of the recently acquired Wilkes Bashford stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto is Bill’s son Tyler. So where are the daughters? The family wonders the same. All seven members of the third generation are men, and so far six of them are in the family clothing business. An unusual statistic that is not lost on Bill. “I’m proud as punch of these seven kids,” he says. “They each have a different responsibility, and the respect they have for each other is a marvel.”

No one in the family has a guaranteed ticket into the business. A Mitchell must work outside of the family business for a minimum of five years before being eligible, but even then there is no entitlement. There must be a need for the person’s skill set, and an actual job available.

All the 3G (third generation) members attribute the unusual accord in the family to clearly defined roles and communication. “The only thing that can kill us is not communicating,” says co-president Bob. “Super high-level communication prevents in-fighting.” It’s typical to run into several Mitchells among the clothing racks and jewelry cases. They consider their hands-on presence the hallmark of a store that knows its customers’ preferences. “It gives us an enormous competitive advantage, to see what’s popular and what’s working, and what’s not,” says Bill.

And that one-on-one attention goes beyond the business. “We sell clothes for a living but giving back to the community is in our DNA,” explains Bill. “If you are an integral part of the community, you will have a successful business.” The stores are often opened to groups for events and fundraisers, and the family members participate actively in their hometowns.

The question remains as to whether or not the transition from 3G to 4G will be as smooth as the hand off from brothers Jack and Bill to their sons. But Jack Mitchell has high hopes. “Roughly 80 percent of American businesses are family-owned or –based. I believe it’s the heart and soul of our country.”

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Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
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Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

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Cost: Free

Where:
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13 Oenoke Ridge
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Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
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Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
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View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
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Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
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New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The Glass House is pleased to present Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a landscape installation that will be on view throughout the 2016 tour season to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
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View map »


Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $50

Where:
Maritime Aquarium
10 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Singers are invited to rehearse and perform the Mozart Requiem with the Music on the Hill Summer Chorus led by Artistic Director Ellen Dickinson. Register by July 5th! Rehearsals...

Cost: $40

Where:
WEPCO church complex
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: (203) 529-3133
Contact Name: Ellen
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads and Related Works is a group of paintings and works on paper chosen to compliment the painting Recital (Spread), 1980 which Philip Johnson purchased...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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View map »


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Website »

More information

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Cost: $50

Where:
Maritime Aquarium
10 North Water Street
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View map »


Website »

More information

Singers are invited to rehearse and perform the Mozart Requiem with the Music on the Hill Summer Chorus led by Artistic Director Ellen Dickinson. Register by July 5th! Rehearsals...

Cost: $40

Where:
WEPCO church complex
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: (203) 529-3133
Contact Name: Ellen
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads and Related Works is a group of paintings and works on paper chosen to compliment the painting Recital (Spread), 1980 which Philip Johnson purchased...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Grace Farms Foundation
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Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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