Small Business Focus: For 30 Years, CPW Has Dressed Customers from Age 18 to 90 (Updated to Include The Hat)

By Carol Tannenhauser

Hats don’t become me — except for the one I found last winter in a small, women’s clothing store on 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, called CPW. I had wandered in and told owner Linda Wolff my dilemma, and she had produced a hat she said couldn’t fail. She was right; I loved it like no other.

Then, I lost it. Bereft, I went back to CPW to buy another, but Linda said it was out of stock and they weren’t making any more. We commiserated, and I discovered she knows my cousin.

I was thinking about my lost hat this fall, when my cousin called to tell me that Linda had called to tell her to tell me that she was able to get more of the hats! I ran to CPW and bought two. You can have your acres-long department stores. I’ll take a mom and pop — or a Linda — any day.

Linda (who declined to be photographed for this story) has been in business on the Upper West Side for 30 years. She came to this location in 2002, and before that was on Broadway and 75th Street for more than a decade. To what does she attribute CPW’s longevity? “I have a certain vision,” she said, when we spoke in the store last Saturday, “and I’ve pretty much stayed true to it. I’m known as a denim store. I carry contemporary women’s clothing that is simple, with a little bit of an edge.”

If the clothes are edgy, the ambiance is not. “It’s very important to me to create a safe, nonjudgmental space for my customers,” Linda said. “They range in age from 18 to 90, and are very, very loyal. I know them well. You get a tremendous amount of service in this store. Some customers don’t even look at the racks. They come in and say, ‘What have you got for me?’ or they call ahead and I set up a dressing room for them.”

Linda knows shopping can be linked to mood and loves to make people feel better, but prudently. “Sometimes, I’ll say, ‘I think you have enough for today,’” she explained, but not this day.

“I’ve got a great new sweater for you, by the way,” she said.

Not the reporter, but The Hat.

CPW, 495 Amsterdam Avenue, southeast corner of 84th Street. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closes at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

COLUMNS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. Jo Ann Miller says:

      Can we see a picture of the hat???

    2. Kandice Thorn says:

      Why did you not ask the obvious question that I’ve been wondering for years?? Why are you called “CPW” when you’re on Amsterdam, not CPW? Even more perplexing to learn that they started out on Broadway – also not CPW.

      • Mark P says:

        Don’t be silly now 🙂 CPW has cache as a name…Amsterdam or Columbus or Broadway do not. It’s like DKNY – refers to something in the consumer’s mind, yet is abstract at the same time. A very clever choice, I think. See how you connected it to Central Park West, even though it’s not? Same with the wares. Great branding.

        • Carol Tannenhauser says:

          Actually, CPW was a brand. Linda said that 15 years ago, she had a partner with a wholesale line called CPW. The partnership ended, but the name stuck.

    3. Filatura says:

      Thanks for the tip! I pass the store almost every day and never thought to stop in because the displays are usually denim-heavy, which is not a major attraction for me. But “Simple with an edge” plus great service sounds very appealing.

    4. Gail says:

      Love Linda and her wonderful team! She has a great eye for so many chic brands!

    5. PattyF says:

      I love Linda! She’s been “dressing” me for 30 years. She has a great eye and will not only tell you when something looks great.. but when it doesn’t.

    6. RWC10025 says:

      Absolutely terrific store it was great store on Broadway and it’s great on Amsterdam Avenue .
      I bought my teenager some of her favorite clothes at this store and ( I wear plus size so I don’t buy clothes there ) but she’s great handbags and accessories for me.
      The owner has a very keen eye for what’s fashion forward but at the same time relaxed and a little edgy sort of like upper Westsiders

    7. Oona says:

      Would have been nice to include a photo of The Hat!

    8. Pedestrian says:

      Fantastic story of a small business owner who knows how it’s done. Thanks for sharing.

    9. Roseann Milano says:

      You cannot write a story about your special hat and NOT SHOW US A PICTURE OF IT!!!!!

    10. Renee says:

      Congrats Linda i am Kelly Lees mom! She is always successful at your store!!

    11. Carol Tannenhauser says:

      Updated to include a picture of The Hat (not the writer.)

    12. brooke says:

      Thanks for the tip. I pass it regularly and look in but never went in. I will now.