Sharon and Lauren Roth say mutual respect and trust is the secret to making their boutique boom with business.
By Susan Peck
The thought of going into business with your mother would be more of a nightmare than a dream come true for a lot of daughters. Not so for 24-year-old Lauren Roth, whose mother, Sharon, is a bona fide member of the cool moms club.
Sharon Roth, 58, is the owner of Jarbo, a boutique in downtown Birmingham specializing in chic women’s clothing in fine fabrics that she calls “wearable fashion for every woman.” The mother and daughter have become a dynamic duo since Lauren finished college with a marketing degree from the University of Michigan and joined Jarbo 10 months ago.
Lauren focuses on the high-tech business strategy (trend charts and web management), while Sharon attends to the artistic side, including designing. Together they are a fierce team building their brand and buying sought-after European lines from designers such as Salvatore Santoro, Sofie D’Hoore and Lamberto Losani at fashion week in Paris and Milan, which they attend twice a year.
Sharon, who also owns 10 Jarbo shops in California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Washington, says their working success is all about mutual respect. “I don’t micromanage Lauren, I trust her instincts, and she respects what I bring to the company,” Sharon says. Her daughter agrees: “We have a mental shorthand, or an intuition between us that makes working together a breeze, something maybe only family members can have.”
Keeping to Sharon’s vision of clean, edgy European designs that the real woman can wear has served the 10-year-old company well. “Our customer is confident and contemporary but doesn’t care as much about brand names as finding stylish pieces in fine fabrics that fit every size silhouette beautifully,” Sharon says. Aside from buying from designers, she also designs and manufactures clothing and leather accessories seasonally for Jarbo.
Mother and daughter both now call a suburb of Seattle their home, but Sharon moved from Washington to Los Angeles when she was 21 to work in the fashion industry. “I started out as a wholesaler for a few popular clothing lines, and when private label clothing was starting to get big in the ’80s, I started designing a private label myself for department stores like Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer and Victoria’s Secret,” Sharon says in a phone interview. “By the time I was 30, I designed one of Nordstrom’s biggest-selling items of all time — a pleated stirrup pant.”
But at 33, having two small children a year and a half apart and a burgeoning fashion career, something had to give. “One day when Lauren was on her play telephone I heard her say the name of one of the buyers I worked with. That’s when it hit me that all my kids see from me is my work,” she says.
The next day, Sharon handed the business to a new partner and took the next seven years off to be a full-time mom. “It was a difficult decision, but my kids and family are No. 1,” Sharon says. “My love of clothing and fashion were still there too, but I couldn’t do both well.”
Sharon eventually got back into the fashion business with a leather coat line she designed, and then in 2008 launched Jarbo. The Seattle-based team has since taken the company on a path of steady growth.
When asked the reasons for Jarbo’s success, both are quick to answer. “We make people feel good. The experience you have in our stores may begin with a glass of prosecco, wine or tea and continues with our expert stylists helping you get pieces that make you look your very best for every day or a special event,” Lauren says. Sharon adds, “There’s always a lot of hugging going on, because we love the women that come into our stores, and that love shows.”
All Jarbo locations are carefully curated and found in quaint neighborhoods like the one in downtown Birmingham. “I heard fashion icon Linda Dresner had a shop here, so I stopped by to check it out for a new store and knew immediately it was somewhere I wanted to be,” Sharon says.
As for the future, they are working on a bigger web presence, as well as adding stores in locales like Carmel in California, Chicago and a few cities in Florida.
The Roths also want to continue their charity work with Stolen Youth — a project that educates others about human trafficking. “We both bring out the best and want the best for one another — that’s the greatest thing,” Sharon says. “Lauren even has me wearing one of those step-counting fitness bracelets, so I can try to reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day. She’s been a positive influence in so many ways.”
203 E. Maple Road, Birmingham