SAYVILLE

After 30 years, Debra Canavan Classics will close its doors and shift to online-only

Farewell to a fashionista’s paradise

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Main Street fashion boutique Debra Canavan Classics will close its doors at
the end of this month, owner Debra Canavan announced.

But not to fret, fashionmongers: the Sayville staple will be just a click away when the store will revive its online presence on March 1.

Canavan, a Garden City resident, opened the boutique 30 years ago after working in the fashion, marketing and modeling industries.

Prior to opening the store, Canavan, 65, worked as a showroom model, displaying clothing for retailers and designers. As she got older, she started working at special occasion dress shop Sugarplum in Garden City, where she’d work oneon-one with customers.

Growing up in Bellport, Canavan said she has fond memories of Sayville. One women’s clothing store, the Charlotte Shop on Main Street, always stood out to her.

“Everyone talked about it, so I thought, Maybe there’s room for some other boutique someplace nearby,” Canavan recalled.

Despite the recession of the early 1990s, Canavan followed her dreams and opened Debra Canavan Classics on Railroad Avenue in 1991, next to the nowclosed Patti’s Pot Belly Deli.

Shortly after, Canavan moved into a new spot on Main Street, where she stayed for six years and built up her clientele.

Former president of the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce, Ann Morrison, encouraged Canavan to move into a 2,800-square-foot space, also on Main Street. Canavan’s husband, James, put his background in construction to use and helped her put a personal touch on the new site in 1997. The store has been there ever since.

Business quickly took off, Canavan said. Upon customers’ requests, she shifted her clothing items to more formal wear.

“Nowadays, the customer wants fast fashion – she wants a lower price point,” she said. “The hardest part was trying to find goods at a lower price and not compromise the integrity of the store, which had a reputation for selling high-end.”

The store always saw a successful prom season, Canavan said. On any given Saturday in the spring, the shop was packed with teen prom-goers, on the hunt for one of the most important dresses of their lifetime.

As time went on, Canavan said, she once again changed her sales formula: she removed most of the special occasion outfits and started offering trendy, casual closet staples, like jeans.

“It’s really about listening to the customer: What does she want to spend and what does she want to wear? She’s the fashion expert, and it’s a matter of listening,” Canavan said.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in spring 2020, the boutique was forced to close temporarily. Canavan created a digital presence for the boutique, advertising products on Instagram and selling on her website.

“Our Savyille community was so supportive, and it was just so heartwarming, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “They were shopping and I felt so appreciated.”

The online webstore was put on pause in June when the storefront was able to reopen. But come March, the website will relaunch with fresh picks for all fashionistas. Canavan said she’s “very excited” to go online.

Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce president Eileen Tyznar said it’s difficult to see the longtime shop close its doors.

“Our chamber will sorely miss Debra Canavan, who has been an iconic Main Street boutique for over 30 years,” Tyznar wrote in a statement for The Suffolk County News. “She and her boutique have been the epitome of style and grace. We are looking forward to her online store announcement in March!”

For Canavan, this is a positive step – but saying farewell to Sayville is no easy feat.

“I will miss this community terribly,” Canavan said. “They’re my friends. I know them, I know their kids, their grandkids. So that will be difficult for me.”

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