Thirteen years after he sold more than 100 White House/Black Market clothing stores to Chico’s for $90 million, Maryland-based retailer Richard Sarmiento is building another fashion chain, and Towson is one of the first locations.
The Severna Park resident gained a following after he opened stores that featured only classic white-colored and black-colored women’s clothing.
His new business is called Boho Nation, and it features women’s fashions with a Bohemian flair. STORES magazine just featured it as a “Concept2Watch.”
Sarmiento opened his first Boho Nation store in 2014 at the Westfield Annapolis Mall. He opened a Towson store earlier this year at Towson Commons, a first-level space near York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Annapolis store has closed, but he also has stores open or planned for Severna Park, northern Virginia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He said he hopes to open many more. In some locations, he plans to create a store-within-a-store called Boho Blanco, featuring resort wear, all white
“I’m just a serial entrepreneur,” Sarmiento said. “I can’t help myself. I’m always looking for the next opportunity.”
Sarmiento got his start in the hotel industry, and many Marylanders remember him as the first general manager of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, which opened in 1981. While still with Hyatt, he opened the first White House at Harborplace, just across Light Street from the Baltimore Hyatt. He later added a line of all black clothes, and the stores became White House/Black Market.
White House/Black Market grew to more than 140 locations in 30 states at one point. That made it a tempting target for a corporate buyer such as Chico’s, which continues to operate it as a separate division.
After the sale to Chico’s, Sarmiento explored a variety of options. He opened a Mexican-American restaurant on Kent Island, called Rick’s Americantina. Several years ago he returned to fashion with a store in Easton called FashN Stop. Then he launched Boho Nation.
The Towson store features easy to wear clothing that might be described as Bohemian chic –clothing with a Southwest or Native American feel but suitable as urban wear too. The look is casual and carefree but put together.
“I saw the trend,” Sarmiento said. “I kept hearing the word Boho. It’s not just a just a teenage thing. You see it in stores such as Anthropologie, Free People, Urban Outfitters… We’re trying to make it contemporary.”
Sarmiento said he believes Boho Nation has the potential to take off the way White House /Black Market did. He notes that shopping mall developers are constantly seeking different approaches to retailing.
“If you look at malls, a lot of the stores have been around for a while – The Limited, The Gap,” he says. Mall owners “are always looking for new concepts to keep fresh.”
Sarmiento said he likes being back in retailing.
“I always figure today’s a new day,” he said. “You have to reinvent yourself…I think we’re on to something.”
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