Jean Genies

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In 1978, 27-year-old Mark Blumenfeld had a dream. He wanted to wear blue jeans to work every day.PHOTO 1b - mande70s

It may sound simple, but for a recent pre-law grad, he didn’t see it coming true. So he and his wife of a year, 28-year-old Elaine (shown then and now), an education major, decided to open a clothing store —specializing in blue jeans.

Little did they know what kind of journey they were embarking on. This month, Rear Ends in West Bloomfield turns 35, and they want the whole community to celebrate with them.

When the store opened at Applegate Square on April 4, 1978,
“elephant bells were all the rage,” says Elaine Blumenfeld, who stocked her shop with the embroidery and patchwork-embellished Faded Glory, Britannia and Chic Jeans by HIS. Soon after, Elaine came across Sasson jeans, retailing for $36 — she ordered nine pairs, to be sold at their discounted price of $28.

“Mark was furious,” says Elaine. “Who is going to spend that much money on a pair of jeans?”

Elaine, of course, was on to something, as designer jeans from Edwin, Big John and Girbaud carried the business through the 1980s, selling for up to $100 each — and helped confirm the need to expand, which they did to a space at the Boardwalk on
Orchard Lake Road in 1994, then twice more over the years.

PHOTO 1c - mandecurrentToday, jeans are the new black pants, says Ariana Blumenfeld, 28, Mark and Elaine’s daughter and business partner, who started working in the boutique in high school and came back after college.

“Jeans are dressy,” she says. “There are maybe two restaurants in Metro Detroit where I won’t wear jeans. It’s so much more than just straight leg and boot cut.”

Trends, cuts, texture, washes and finishes bring so many premium denim options to customers that Ariana is determined not to allow a customer out of her shop without a perfect fit.

“We have customers who my parents helped 30 years ago, and they

bring in their children and grandchildren and are still just as loyal —
because they know we have the best selection and work hard to find the right choice for each customer,” she says.

To do that, she uses the eye for upcoming trends that she developed from years of working by her mom’s side and the business sense that her father has imparted.

“I think I have the best of both of them,” she says. “I pore over numbers, but I want to be effective in buying. I may find something totally cutting edge at a trade show, but a year later everyone has it so I have to stay on top of new finds and trends,” she says.

PHOTO 1a - image.phpSo far, her track record is good: When she was 11, and accompanying her mother to a trade show, she spotted Hard Tail, a new brand out of Santa Monica — today, the line is still one of the shop’s best sellers, along with Textile by Elizabeth and James, Red Engine, Paige, Citizens of Humanity (shown) and more. Rear Ends also recently introduced its own app that offers a customer loyalty program, special promotions and more.

In a world of e-commerce and big box brands, mom-and-pop shops are a rarity — and when one stands the test of time, it’s no fluke. “My parents are my role models in all aspects of my life,” says Ariana, whose sister, Alicia Chandler, chose law over fashion.

“I’m so proud of the work they’ve done and what they’ve achieved over the years, and I hope to be in the business another 35 years, with my own kids or my niece by my side.”

Celebrate Rear Ends’ 35-year anniver-sary with a week of special promotions, raffles, gift certificates and more, April 1-6. Rear Ends, West Bloomfield (248-626-4333).

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