This excerpt is from the Jacksonville Review, Released November, 2017
The Cotton Broker
110 SOUTH OREGON STREET
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss… one generation removed.
The Cotton Broker has been a fixture on the Jacksonville fashion scene since 1994, when store founder and Jacksonville native Alice McGee acquired the historic brick building on the corner of California and South Oregon. Having previously operated shops in several cities, Alice knew this would be a great location for a women’s casual clothing store.
When she opened The Cotton Broker, most of the tops and pants Alice carried were cotton—and that inspired the store’s name. Today, twenty-three years later, when you step inside, you’ll still find racks of cotton and linen apparel, but you won’t find Alice. You’ll find her 27-year-old daughter, Alix George, who took over the store in February 2017, when Alice retired.
“People ask me: ‘Are you new? How long have you been here?’” Alix says. “I tell them, ‘Since I was four.’” And, in fact, a picture exists of a very young Alix, hanging out in The Cotton Broker. “It was Halloween and I was dressed as a princess,” she notes with a grin. “I was about as tall as the counter.” In addition to cotton and linen togs, customers will find a broad range of natural fibers. “Over the years, we’ve added environmentally friendly fabrics, like bamboo, and Tencel and Modal (both made from regenerated wood cellulose). They are really comfortable, and perfect for casual wear. It’s fabulous, fun clothing!”
During her school years, Alix periodically helped out at the Jacksonville store, then after college worked in her mom’s other location, in Ashland. With her mother’s retirement, she took over in Jacksonville. “Initially, some of our regular customers were concerned, but nothing is going to change. We know people love the store as it is. They’ll still see their favorite brands, like Habitat, Flax, Tribal, Comfy, and Cut Loose, and some new items, too. Things may evolve a bit, but it won’t be drastic.” While women of all ages shop at The Cotton Broker, Alix suggests that the sweet spot of appeal runs from 30 to 106! “Our oldest customer was 106 when she passed away,” she reminisces. “She was fit and cute and still cared how she looked in a pair of pants.”
With the holidays coming, Alix notes, “We carry lots of gift ideas, like jewelry, gloves, and beautiful hand woven silk scarves from Nepal. We know that it’s hard to buy clothes for someone. But when a customer is in our computer system, a gift-giver can come in and we’ll look up her size and favorite colors. That’s why we have lots of husbands shopping here.
“We’re all about customer service,” she adds, “for comfortable, easy shopping.”
By Paula Block Erdmann and Terry Erdmann November 28th, 2017