The Syracuse Commission for Women has named Kellie Gingold 2014 Syracuse Woman of the Year. Gingold was selected for her volunteer work on fundraisers including the Breakfast at Tiffany’s Fashion Show, benefiting Hope for Heather; Race for the Cure; Manlius Pebble Hill After Prom Party: Pimped, benefiting the American Heart Association; and Ronald McDonald House Charity Fashion Show.
Tell me about your business:
I’ve been running Showoffs Boutique for 16 years, 12 of them in Armory Square. I used to do two segments a month on Bridge Street with Julie Abbott. It allowed me to get to know my potential customers better as I heard about their real women’s lives.
Do you consider yourself a retailer or a fashion stylist?
Being a stylist is the most rewarding part of the business. I like to show people how to look their best and help them to let their inner beauty come out.
How did you get interested in style?
I always wanted to be Barbie. My mother used to say to say, “You can’t be Barbie. No one is that perfect.” But she shows you can be good at a lot of things and look good.
You know you’re not going to convince a lot of feminists of that view.
Barbie gets a bad rap. She shows people you can do anything you want and still look good. I like the idea of being pretty and feminine. I want women to learn how to do that and think they’re pretty. I like putting it all together. There’s no greater compliment than when a customer says she feels good about the way she looks.
So you don’t have to look schlumpy when you go to Wegmans on Sunday?
You can wear yoga pants and look good. Look at Lululemon (an online athletic clothing retailer). There’s a way to be comfortable and still be fashion forward. When you do that, you put a spring in your step and you feel better.
Who is your ideal customer?
I enjoy dressing everybody. She doesn’t have to be a certain age or a certain size. My ideal customer is open to trying something new. I’m all about using those pieces you own and breaking it up with something new.
So you won’t judge me for having a closet full of black jackets?
No. Just break it up with some color. Black is easy. Men love color. Women are way behind on that.
How does your business connect with your charitable work?
Sometimes it directly connects, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s nice when it ties back to what I’m doing on a daily basis and what I’m good at. The challenge is nice when it’s not tied in. It allows me to meet other people I wouldn’t have met.
What’s the favorite charity event you’ve helped organize?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, definitely. I love that event. When you start hearing stories about people affected by ovarian cancer, you hear how their insight has changed them to look more at the positive. We can educate people about this in a fun way by watching this movie with people who have survived. Ovarian cancer is a silent killer.
What do you like about organizing fundraisers?
There should be a goal at the end. If we can give back, we should. Everyone has a component they can give. They can design a flier or help set up or give money. Everyone can do something. It’s people helping people. We’re setting that example for our children.
What are your thoughts on the need for Women’s History Month to recognize the achievements of women and the places where there’s still inequity?
Women supporting women should start in the sandbox. Everyone needs their best girlfriends. The idea of women helping women is a lifetime process. It’s nice when you can carry your friends from the sandbox your whole life and make other friends. That’s what my fundraising projects are about. It’s women helping women. None of these projects would be possible without women helping women.
Kellie Gingold owns Showoffs Boutique, 264 W. Jefferson St., in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Gingold will be honored as Woman of the Year on Thursday, April 24, 5:00 p.m. at City Hall Commons, 201 E. Washington St., Syracuse. This is the fourth year the Syracuse Commission for Women has given the award.
Renée K. Gadoua is a freelance writer and editor based in Manlius. Follow her on Twitter @ReneeKGadoua.