The Scrub Club means Fashion & Fun Under the Sun
By Kathy Halper
A customer walking into the Scrub Club on a late afternoon may unknowingly find themselves in the middle of a “5:00 Dance Off.” If the right song pops up on the playlist there’s no stopping the employees in their brightly colored scrubs from breaking into dance, often taking any customers in the store along for the ride. The dance off is just one of the ways owner Carla Baldwin ensures her store is a great place to work and shop.
Giving back to the community is another way. When the Scrub Club moved into a beautiful new location in Bradenton, Fla., last year, Baldwin combined the grand opening celebration with a fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. A raffle contest netted a large donation for the cause. The local Blood Mobile parked outside awarded any customers who donated blood with an extra 5 percent discount that day. It was a huge success.
After 25 years in the industry and 15 years as the owner of The Scrub Club, Baldwin knows what’s important to her as a businesswoman and as a person.
“I just love being able to help out other people. I’m a really spiritual person. What I love about being a business owner is being able to give jobs to people and keep the economy going as well. And I think people should be very supportive of small businesses.”
This 4,000-square-foot “small” business can now be found in a small strip mall right off the interstate, close to many dental offices and a technical school. “We sell all the scrubs for the medical and dental students,” Baldwin says.
The new location also boasts an expanded shoe department, four dressing rooms and high ceilings. The large showroom is outfitted with funky little chairs and tables over a shag rug. The former art student with a passion for creativity says, “We really merchandise well here. It’s absolutely beautiful. People walk in and say, ‘Wow. We’ve never seen a store like this before.’”
Hot products at The Scrub Club include the Cherokee line called “Core Stretch,” which is made with spandex, and according to Baldwin, both men and women love it because it stretches with the wearer. “When you’re in the health care profession and you’re constantly moving, you want something that’s soft and flexible,” she says. Many of her group sales have chosen this line of scrubs. Grey’s Anatomy, Barco and Koi round out the best-sellers list.
Changes in the shoe department are also noteworthy. Baldwin says, “Dansko has some incredibly fun prints and colors. There’s been a trend in hospitals in the past year into solid color coding for all departments. So nursing is all in navy blue and radiology might be in teal or something.” Because of this change, clients really want to wear a shoe that’s cute and comfortable. “It’s almost like they’re rebelling. They say, ‘Give me the loudest shoes you have.’” She points out she is wearing cheetah print Danskos. “I wear them with my scrubs and my jeans, and we sell a lot.”
The shoe department carries more than just work shoes. “We carry the Alegria and the Dansko sandal and the Skechers workout shoe. A lot of clients come in and want a work shoe but pick up another pair while they’re here.” And according to Baldwin, the louder colors and fun prints are what people want. “I’ve seen a lot of changes. When I started in the uniform industry over 20 years ago, everything was either white or maybe light blue. There was nothing exciting.” But times have changed.
Baldwin found herself in the uniform industry after studying art in college. She found herself working retail for a large shoe company and credits the mean boss with teaching her to be on her toes and how to sell, as well as providing an example of what kind of boss she didn’t want to be. Eventually she started selling for a medical equipment business. When they were interested in selling uniforms, she handled the responsibility. Learning as she went, Baldwin saw her department grow from a “little corner of their store until it got bigger and bigger, and next thing you know we’re knocking down walls and I had my whole section of scrubs.” She spent 15 years with the company until they didn’t want to be involved in scrubs anymore. She then bought them out and went on her own.
“I saw a need for a really nice scrub store. I didn’t see anybody that was doing that.” Baldwin began by doing a lot of cold calling and going to all the major hospitals and nursing homes in the area and setting up payroll deduction. “I just established a good relationship with all the professionals in the area and everything fell into place. I have a lot of loyal customers that have been with me since the first day I opened the door.”
Her vision was always a store that would be a “bit trendier – not your average mom-and-pop uniform store.” And it would seem she was ahead of the curve. “The industry has just gone crazy. The styles are just adorable. When I leave work at night, if I want to go out for dinner, I leave my scrubs on.” She gets lots of compliments on her style choices, and all of her employees wear scrubs as well. “That’s a requirement to work here. You wear the scrubs. You wear the shoes. When you wear something, it sells. People look at you and say, ‘I want that. I want what you have on.’”
Going forward she sees the scrub industry continuing to follow the fashion industry as far as colors, cuts and styles. Changes of season bring new colors, and racks are filled with special holiday prints. Baldwin sees her clients trending younger, and with that comes a demand for more stylish apparel. “These girls come in and they want flare-leg low-rise pants. I see things continuing to get more fitted and light. And the fabrics continue to change and improve by adding rayon or spandex.”
In addition to scrubs, customers can find lab coats and accessories of all kinds at The Scrub Club. Stethoscopes, blood pressure kits, socks, nursing bags, backpacks, tote bags, thermometers and badge holders are available in store. Even chef wear including jackets, hats, pants and shoes can be found in stock. “We do sell to a lot of smaller mom-and-pop restaurants, and sometimes even food chains will send people in that need an apron or pair of baggy chef pants,” she says. And because the nearby technical schools ask for it, EMT and paramedics can find pants, boots and belts for their needs as well.
The Scrub Club also can monogram apparel. “We send it out to a lady who does beautiful embroidery work. We can take anybody’s logo and put it on a scrub or lab coat.” Baldwin has gone so far as to redesign a logo for a doctor’s office that was outdated. “I got on the phone with him and said, ‘We should change this.’ With my art background, I drew it up and sent it to him. He said he loved it, and that made me feel good. It turned out beautifully.”
A new brand of watch being carried has Baldwin particularly excited. It’s called Modify. The watches have interchangeable bands and faces so the look can be changed every day to go with her clients’ outfits. “There are only two retailers in Florida that are selling these, a store in Miami and then there’s me. I just think the design concept is awesome. Our medical healthcare workers enjoy them because they do so much hand washing and [the watches] are waterproof.”
While her loyal customers keep her busy, Baldwin’s always using her creativity to keep people coming in the doors. She loves to use her artistic talents designing displays, store promotions and sales flyers. She launched a Facebook page, and she enlists the help of her younger staff members to keep it up to date. “They have some of the best marketing ideas for social media so I’m always picking their brains.” Once a week, a staff meeting is held with her eight employees where ideas are discussed and goals are set. There are contests such as who can sell the most shoes in a month. While most new business comes from word of mouth, Baldwin will occasionally go out and distribute catalogs and cards to doctors’ offices. Scrub Club pens have also become a popular marketing tool. “People love our pens. They’ve come to expect a free pen every time they come into the store.”
The Scrub Club has a website through UniformMarket that Baldwin considers a work in progress. Keeping it up to date is a challenge she’d like to give more attention to when she can find the time.
Not long ago, employees and clients spent an afternoon creating a commercial for The Scrub Club, which can be viewed on the website. “A lot of the people modeling the scrubs are customers. I offered to give them a free set of scrubs if they would come model. We created a little runway and took a piece of black fabric and some lighting, and we had so much fun with that.”
Her eight employees include her sister, who is the store manager and has been with the store since the beginning. Most of her employees do end up staying for many years. “Finding the right employees is always a challenge, but when I get the good ones, I make an effort to keep them and appreciate them. We’re like a little family here. I’ll take them out for dinner just to connect as friends, not just coworkers. We have Christmas parties or we’ll do pedicures. It’s good for morale to do things like that.”
In the end Baldwin’s business concept is to provide exceptional service. “I want my customers to come in and have an incredible shopping experience. When they come to The Scrub Club, we treat them like VIPs. We want them to feel good about themselves and to find something they look good in and leave happy so they’ll come back.” While many business owners say the same thing, it rings true coming from Baldwin. Whether dealing with a potential customer or hard working staff member, she is committed to building a business with kindness and generosity at its heart. All her success would seem to prove that the mean boss from years ago could have learned a thing or two from her.
The Scrub Club
8527 State Road 70 East
Bradenton, FL 34202