For Nancie and Melinda Cooper, a love of fashion started early, nurtured by their mother, Mary Ellen. As the sisters fine-tuned their sense of style and evolving trends, along with the art of helping others find the perfect dress or outfit for every day or a special occasion, Mary Ellen was there to cheer them on. Today, the matriarch, at 96, celebrates her daughters’ accomplishments as longtime owners of two thriving women’s stores on Vero Beach’s Ocean Drive.
Melinda started Cooper & Co. 33 years ago, and Nancie bought Sigrid’s of Vero — without inventory — 27 years ago and made it her own. Their recipe for success and longevity is a mix of selecting the right merchandise for their market, knowing their customers and serving them well.
Mary Ellen points to the family history that she believes propelled her daughters’ destiny. “I always loved clothes, and I believe our family was gifted in the clothing industry; we have natural talent in that.” She explains, “My grandfather came over to the United States from Germany at age 16. He was a pattern maker and secured a good job in New York City, creating patterns for both men’s and women’s clothes.”
She continues, “My mother was also very talented and sewed beautifully. She was a real fashion plate and always dressed stylishly. And when I was 16 my dad bought me my own sewing machine. It was a treadle machine, which I still have, along with at least four other sewing machines. Nancie and Melinda used that treadle machine to make clothes for their dolls.” Mary Ellen sewed for her daughters, often designing their outfits. “They loved beautiful fabrics,” she adds.