Danny Reynolds has helped generations of Elkhart County residents find their perfect outfit. Whether that’s for prom, their wedding, a date night, or just the perfect outfit for your everyday errands, Danny and the entire staff at Stephenson’s of Elkhart has you covered. Stephenson’s opened their store in downtown Elkhart on Main Street in 1931, as an exclusive, 1,000 square foot, appointment-only dress shop. And WOW have things changed in the last 90 years!
Now Stepheson’s proudly occupies three buildings, encompassing over 15,000 square feet, right in the same 200 block of Main Street. Danny’s parents came into (and eventually purchased) the business in 1964, so it goes without saying that Danny grew up as a “retail brat”, working in the shipping and receiving department as a teenager. We think that’s also where he picked up his incredible fashion and style! Danny started working full-time at Stephenson’s after graduating college, in 1994 (which is amazing, because he still has the spunk of a 29 year old!).
We got to know Danny a little bit better and asked him a few questions about living and working in Elkhart County.
What's your favorite go-to kind of outfit that is currently available at Stephenson's?
I’m a jeans guy at heart, and as a lifelong music fan, typically tend to incorporate a touch of rock & roll into my personal style (and sometimes the store’s too!). So, my go-to is usually a great pair of jeans – Liverpool’s distressed slim fit is my current fav – topped by a t-shirt or button down, and finished off with a blazer, or one of an embarrassing amount of leather jackets I have. The great (and dangerous for me!) thing is the convenience of Stephenson’s newest department, “1931” for men. Named for the year the store opened, it offers great casual and lifestyle fashions for guys, at very reasonable prices. We saw a void for this in the local marketplace, and I personally experienced it as a shopper, so we created the Stephenson’s of men’s stores!
You have helped countless generations with fashion! From prom to bridal and beyond - do you have a favorite story that spans generations?
There’s nothing more rewarding than the honor of getting to be a part of people’s major life events. From job interviews to proms and of course the wedding day, we just love playing a small part in these big days. My favorite stories though, tend to be of multi-generational Stephenson’s shopper families. Just this summer, we had a bride whose mother and grandmother also got their wedding dresses at Stephenson’s. How cool is that? The topper was the flower girl for the wedding, who was the bride’s niece. She put on her little gown and stated she would one day be getting her dress at Stephenson’s, as well. I gotta stick around for that!
We know your role at Stephenson’s has you moving all of the time - which means you need to refuel! Where is your favorite spot to grab a bite to eat in Elkhart?
My family and I love going to Michael’s Italian Restaurant. Like us, the Lavignilios and Michael’s are enduring staples of the community, and subtle reminders of the kinds of businesses and restaurants that used to line Main Streets and downtowns everywhere. Oh, and their pizza is pretty hard to beat too – especially when my 17-year-old son, Jude, is in the kitchen making it! We recently celebrated our daughter’s 21st birthday there, with our friends Bob & Amy Martin, partly because both of our sons were working in the pizza kitchen (how’s that for keeping it local?!), but also because we all just love Rico, and the entire Michael’s family.
What do you love about living in Elkhart County?
Without a doubt, it’s the people. Ours is a people business, in that we get to work with, serve, and get acquainted with so many Elkhartans on a daily basis. Through Stephenson’s many charitable and philanthropic endeavors, we get to know even more citizens. The people of this community have been so loyal and supportive of us, for so many years, that we are eager to give back any time we can. I think it creates a very circular economy, where everyone benefits.
When you get a chance to relax, where is your favorite spot to go in Elkhart?
Anywhere I’m surrounded by family and friends, which is most anywhere I go in Elkhart!
We know that Stephenson's is a must stop shop when in Elkhart County. What else would you say is a must-see or a must-do for visitors?
So much comes to mind, but as a downtown Elkhart guy, I’ll start right here. Iechyd Da is a great place to get together with friends, and the Wellfield Gardens make you feel as if you’d entered some exotic oasis, on another level. I can’t think of a better place to see a show than the beautiful Lerner Theatre. I credit The Lerner renovation as being the catalyst of the current downtown revitalization.
My suggestion to experience it all, would be to come the third week of June, for our annual Elkhart Jazz Festival. All of the places I just mentioned participate in one form or another. For Stephenson’s, it’s our annual Sidewalk Sale. Jazz and fashion lovers and performers have made it part of their annual trek here! The beautiful, talented and Emmy-winning Joan Collaso proudly wears her latest Stephenson’s purchases during her performances here each year!
A new outfit from Stephenson’s, a pint with your friends at Iechyd Da, a stroll of the Wellfield Gardens, dinner at The Vine, and an evening of free jazz under the stars in Elkhart’s Central Park – I can’t imagine a better day, anywhere in the Midwest!
Stephenson's of Elkhart has been a staple in downtown Elkhart for 90 years! If you could tell one thing to the founders and staff on the opening day, what would it be?
I suppose I’d say “I think we might be on to something here!” Hahahaha. Honestly it probably wouldn’t be much different than what Norm and Esther Stephenson said to their small staff, on that fateful day in 1931. I can’t say for sure (I’m not thattttt old, haha) but I’d speculate it was something like: “Treat the clients like family, and they’ll do the same to us”. It would go a long way to explaining the faithful loyalty of our amazing customers!
In your opinion, what is the most Instagrammable spot in Elkhart County?
Well, our favorite would probably be the one most commonly seen around here: The glowing Stephenson’s bride, holding the #IFoundTheGown sign! But if I’m being objective, I’ve also seen some great ones come from shows at The Lerner, as well as at the debut of the new Central Park Stage, during the 2021 Jazz Festival. #IHeartElkhart
Get to know some of Elkhart County's Well Crafted entrepreneurs, artists and leaders and where they like to eat, shop and play along the Heritage Trail here: