All Things Underthings
All Things Underthings
Four years ago, Joy Proft opened a retail shop. A bra shop, to be exact. Last week, she was down in New York for the 2017 Curve Expo. Curve is the premier trade show for intimate apparel pros. Anybody’s who’s ever done this thing knows trade shows are work. Three days, 350 brands, 3,000 buyers, and endless events. Now, Joy’s back with new lines on deck, tons of inspo, and a fab nomination for Best Concept Store — announced at the Best of Intima Awards gala reception.
Like the lady says, “putting Manchester, VT on the lingerie map!”
Proft grew up in Rhode Island although she rings pretty true for Vermont. “Rhode Island is a tiny place, and a little bit provincial. As a kid, my whole family — aunts, cousins, grandparents — lived within ten minutes of one another. And from Coventry, if you go twenty minutes one way or the other you’re in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or the ocean!” Joy describes her hometown as a typical tight knit, hard working community. “I went to a great high school there, and am still in touch with a lot of my high school friends. Some think what I do (owning a bra shop) is hilarious. And some (she winks) have even become customers.”
Same with her Syracuse crew. Some can’t help but laugh, and others travel all the way to Vermont for the goods.
“My first job out of college was in radio. I sold advertising for a classic rock FM/classic country AM station. It was my official intro to the music industry and, where I met my ex-husband. He was a DJ at the station, and we met at the company clambake.” She laughs. “You know how people do barbecues; when you’re from Rhode Island you do clambakes.”
“It was radio that brought me to Vermont. From the station in RI, my ex-husband (Jim) took a job as music director and afternoon DJ at WEQX in Manchester. I worked at the ski school desk at Bromley Mountain in the winter and at Mettowee Nursery in the summer. At Bromley, I met so many locals. They were ski instructors, they came to ski, and they were second homeowners.”
From Vermont, she hit St. Louis and began her career with Universal Music Distribution. She lived in Philly, then Richmond, and then L.A.
“When I tell my story, people can hardly believe it. When I say I went to the Grammys in a limo, or had a car service to the airport, and now I’m here managing bra inventory, they seriously pause and consider it.”
Joy left the music industry seven years ago. The Green Mountains were on her mind… “I remember telling a friend in Los Angeles that I liked how, in Vermont, people had these impromptu dinner parties. Like last night, for example. I got together with a few of my girlfriends.” She flipped through her phone to illustrate. “One brought wine, one brought an app. And we just sat around and talked and talked. I love that easy-going life. That easy community here.”
Life After Music
“I knew I wanted to do something with people, but I didn’t know what. I thought about a retail shop because we have such a strong culture already. I listened for messages. I had friends with teenage daughters ready for their first bras, so I started thinking about them.” She paused. “And about moms and daughters. About high school girls going to proms, and weddings, and people having babies. And the lightning bolt hit.”
“There wasn’t anyone selling bras, hosiery, or spanx. Or any of these really popular undergarment brands in Manchester, or Southern Vermont for that matter.”
As an aside, you won’t find a shop with such expert service either. There is such thing as bra-fitting school and the ladies at JOY have aced it. Here, you don’t just “buy” a bra. You get fitted. Lifted. Educated. Embraced. For some of us, even emboldened.
All in a name.
“The name for the store wasn’t so much about me, but about the emotion. I had a couple of jobs in town before opening the shop and one of them was as a substitute teacher at BBA. Once day I was covering a class and noticed a posting on a bulletin board that said, Find Your Joy. Create Your Joy. Live Your Joy, and I woke up the next morning and said, what if I just called it JOY. In all capital letters.”
Yes. YES. And you can find yours in Manchester.