WOMEN IN THE WORKFORCE: Lisa Richter’s Saxony is a staple in Charles City
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
For five different decades Saxony has been a part of Charles City.
The clothing store features women’s apparel and so much more.
“Charles City is a part of who I am and it’s a part of Saxony,” said owner Lisa Richter. “This is where we began.”
Richter owns and runs three clothing stores — Saxony in Charles City and Mason City and LBL (Life by Lisa) in Cedar Falls.
Richter took over the lead role of the Charles City store this year. Saxony was started by her mother, Mary, in 1975, when Lisa was born.
“I literally had a crib in the fitting room,” she said.
Richter, who lives in Cedar Falls, has been involved in almost all aspects of the clothing stores that have been a successful staple in the area for quite some time. She shares her time helping run the Saxony store in Mason City, which was opened in 1986 and is located in the Willowbrook Mall, and balancing the flagship store in Charles City.
She’s also devoted to LBL, a store she opened in 2009 that caters to a younger clientele with trendy fashions from L.A. to New York. She’s also devoted to LBL’s website, lovelbl.com.
Richter has seen a lot of changes in the fashion industry she grew up in.
“We’ve weathered it. We weathered the ups and downs and all the changes,” she said. “We’re evolving at all times.”
Richter says that while she creates a lot of business online, her physical stores are just as profitable, if not moreso.
“I think that brick and mortar is successful and if you do it right and if you’re established,” she said. “It’s all about customer service.”
People still like the experience of shopping at a store in person and trying on new things, whether it’s jewelry or clothing, she said.
“For women, we’re tactile — we like to touch and feel. You can’t get that with online.”
Richter, a 1994 Charles City High School graduate, started working the cash register at Saxony at just 7 years of age.
“I have customers that have known me since I was a child,” she said.
Richter’s life changed after high school when she was scouted to become a model and moved to the “fashion capital of the world” — Milan, Italy. She said it’s more or less a “boot camp” for models.
“That was a life-changing experience, but absolutely fabulous,” she said.
When Richter, who is an only child, came back to visit her hometown in the late 90s, she decided it was best to stay. She took over as manager at Saxony in 1999.
Her mother, Mary — who Lisa said “instilled everything she knows in me” — was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after that. Her father was also suffering from heart disease around that time. Lisa knew she needed to be close to her family.
“It’s kind of like the old saying, you have to take over the farm. It’s family. So I helped with the stores. Then I just started falling in love with the whole industry,” she said.
Richter said her mother comes to the stores off and on, still checking in.
“She travels a lot more now since she’s retired,” said Richter.
She said she’s extremely thankful not only for her mother, but everything that she has learned from her over the years to help keep the clothing business going strong in her family.
“It’s always going to be a part of our family and our business,” said Lisa.
Her father, Bernie, died in 2009. The store was named after his birthplace in Dresden, Germany, in the state of Saxony.
“It’s a beautiful name, Saxony,” said Richter.
She said her mother is going to Germany in a few weeks to visit relatives. All her father’s side of relatives are still in Germany and he was the only one who came to the United States, in 1968.
Lisa has a 7-year-old son named Ryder with her husband Nathan, to whom she has been married for more than five years.
She said she’s thankful for her mother, for not only being a positive role model, but teaching her the ropes about clothing and life.
“I like to say I am a new and improved version of Mary,” Lisa said, smiling.