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Tuesday, August 21 News

Personalization while you wait at FernEllie in New Milford

NEW MILFORD — Fernando Martins and his business are settling in nicely in Connecticut.

Martins opened FernEllie Creations, an embroidery and personalization shop on Church Street, in October and business picked up faster than he expected.

“Small Business Saturday was insane here,” he said of the Saturday following Thanksgiving. “There were so many people who came in. It’s such a different feeling. It’s awesome here.”

Martins makes the comparison to Orlando, Fla., where he previously had his shop. The mall in which he was located closed with little notice and he had two weeks to close the shop and figure out what to do next.

Around the same time, his wife lost her job in Florida, so they packed up a truck with their belongings, the inventory from the shop and headed north with their three children. The plan was to visit friends in Springfield, Mo., first and then head to Danbury, where Martins had lived in the early 2000s and still had connections.

En route, they decided to come to Connecticut first and they never looked back.

“The kids loved it so we stayed here. We found a house in New Milford within five days,” he said. “We loved the town. It’s totally different than what we were used to. Orlando is getting to be dangerous now. Crazy stuff happens there all the time. It’s all you see on the news.”

His wife, Ellie, has found a good job in the area and his children are in the local school system after being home-schooled in Orlando.

“We came here and it’s, like, this is perfect,” Martins said.

It was a good move for the business, as well, he said. He moved his business to an online model after the mall in Orlando closed. A post office employee in New Milford, after seeing Martins ship dozens of packages every day, suggested he open a brick-and-mortar store as well.

Martins was instantly attracted to the space on Church Street, even though it was vacant for about two years and the interior needed a lot of work.

“I didn’t expect it to work out as well as it has,” said Martins, who is originally from Brazil. “I thought it would take a long time to get a following and for people to find us.”

Martins said he started the business selling clothes at a flea market. The initial investment into the business was $300.

Nelson Merchan, a business adviser with Connecticut Small Business Development Center, is working with Martins to grow the business. He said the uniqueness of FernEllie is the main reason it has been successful in the area.

“Fernando has created a store like no other, which has been a very nice addition to New Milford,” Merchan said. “Their customers cannot believe that a personalized message/name can be embroidered to a high-quality product while they wait. No need to wait weeks to get the product.

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“As Fernando wants to continue growing his business, we are working on the sales and marketing plan and the financial projections,” he said. “We have worked on enhancing the online presence, too. As the holiday season created more demand than he anticipated, Fernando had to concentrate his efforts on meeting their customer orders.”

FernEllie offers a variety of items that may be personalized. The children’s section includes shirts, backpacks, hats, lunch bags, hand puppets and stuffed animals from Cubbies. He said gifts for brides, such as makeup bags and robes, are hot sellers in March and April ahead of wedding season.

Martins said FernEllie differentiates itself by offering personalized embroidery for orders as small as one item or as many as 100. The personalization is done in a matter of minutes, too, allowing customers to wait while the item is embroidered.

“Go grab a cup of coffee and it will be ready when you come back,” Martins said. “Customers can also bring in their own items to be personalized. Most places won’t do that.”

Martins said he will work with Merchan on a growth plan that may include hiring employees and opening another store.

FernEllie Creations may be reached at 203-826-0252.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

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