“Susan” was to travel abroad to a warmer climate where she had an event to attend. Turning to the resource for some of her favorite ensembles, she arrived at Really Great Things declaring she needed a dress. Imagine her surprise when in-house stylist extraordinaire Rande Mas told her that actually, she didn’t. Earlier in the year, Susan had purchased one of the shops signature layered dresses consisting of a sheath slip, a silk taffeta dress (with memory fabric to retain silhouette) and semi-sheer over layer which can be snapped under itself to change the length. ($4250.00) It would be a simple matter, Rande suggested, to eliminate the taffeta piece and reconfigure a look both more appropriate to the weather and presenting an entirely different feel. Susan would wear the slip and top layer. All she needed was a change of accessories.
How many establishments would have handled the situation this way? Helmed by owner Ryan Zentner with his sister, Rande and mom Bernice behind the counter, the shop has been a bastion of taste, style and service for 35 years and counting. They don’t advertise, lend clothes to magazines and celebrities, or showcase on a web site.
Really Great Things is simply recommended.
In the late 1960s when her children were teenagers, Bernice grew bored with her job and, with her equally adventurous husband moved the family to Alicante, Spain “to give the kids another outlook.” They unexpectedly stayed five years. Rande married a Spaniard in the shoe business, raised a family, and became a designer of shoes and clothing. Ryan returned to the US, learned retailing from the ground up and eventually opened the first incarnation of RGT. When his sister became single again, she accepted her brother’s invitation to join him at the boutique. They’re a symbiotic team.
“I made a promise to myself many years ago-I hate seeing something I like in someone else’s shop having missed it, so I don’t look elsewhere.” Nor does Ryan read fashion magazines or follow trends. “We’re not into trendy fashion. We’re into timeless, classic with a twist. I get inspired by traveling. For years, I bought on my own, flying all over Europe, trying to find the next new designer. Now we do that together and with very few stops.” The shop literally closes when its principals go overseas. Clientele understands. “Rande knows our customers. She tweaks me into what she needs. I’m more of an editor. I go on feeling. Rande will say, that’s great, but not for my customer.”
Rande and Ryan often choose their own fabrics, selecting a color or pattern, suggesting to a designer how it can be interpreted. They might see a model at a designer’s atelier and request a change of sleeve, neckline, length, the shape of a skirt…A good portion of what’s offered at Really Great Things is reinterpreted, further insuring originality. As to unaltered pieces, “We’re very picky. If it’s not exclusive we won’t carry it. Our customer doesn’t want a Gucci. Gucci is sold in Poughkeepsie,” Ryan tells me.
Only four or five designers are carried at any one time. Investment is made in depth. Dresses start at $1150, trousers at $600, blouses at $300; coats at $2000. The down coats are out of this world; conceivably the only way to avoid looking like a tire while maintaining both warmth and distinction.
To the uninitiated, the boutique appears to stock very few garments. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of what’s on hand remains behind closed doors. Ask to be shown the calf length, winter white, a-line, coat dress with a zipper down the front, horizontally stitched bands, discreet, patch pockets, and long sleeves. Rande pairs this unique, high style garment made of soft, resilient modal polyamide with pencil pants in black or white. Or the extraordinary, reversible, calf length, full skirt, party dress (exclusive to the shop) with black, rustic, textured silk on one side and gray silk taffeta on the other. Like many of the shops special event dresses, this one utilizes memory fabric. It’s possible to fold the ¾ length French sleeves or turn up the skirt to reveal the under color already hinted at across the attractive boat neck. A draped front covers the top of your shoulders. Hidden side zipper. Flattering to any shape.
Racks hold dresses and separates like the luxe, long sleeved, cashmere sweaters with wide, asymmetrical draped and tied necklines in light caramel and dusky blue (pictured,) business attire is otherwise available.
Really Great Things carries from size 0 to 18/20- no need to special order. When a garment doesn’t look well in a certain scale, range is limited or silhouette tweaked. Special items are ordered for familiar customers with upcoming events in mind. Rande inquires and remembers who bought what for which occasion, so no one sees themselves in another color of the same or similar ensemble.
Visit to get a sense of the aesthetic attitude and quality level. If Rande is free, she’ll be happy to assist. “I like to get a feeling for a customer’s vibe, her lifestyle, not just what she’s looking for.” When you think you might want to explore fulfilling a particular need or take a look at what’s seasonally new, however, it’s best to make an appointment. This is not a high pressure environment. Ensuring comfortable relationships is the priority over sales.
“Most of our clientele doesn’t have a lot of time on their hands, yet they manage to come here in person rather than send shoppers. My way of presenting a garment is very different from that of someone else who has less knowledge. We sometimes open early or stay late to accommodate women,” Rande says.The level of service and personal attention is similar to a couturier. Really Great Things works with a few highly skilled tailors arranging to join a client for fitting. “A seamstress is often only as good as her direction.” There’s no charge for this. When a piece needs refreshing, Rande will steam or even resize it also at no cost. When it must be dry cleaned, “Americans dry clean their things too often. We ask the dry cleaners to come in, look at the fabric and speak with us.”
If one were to cite specialization, it might be versatility. Many pieces travel well. Rande will prep garments for trips. Many are multi-layered for variable appearance and/or year-round use.
As both siblings have shoe experience, there’s always Italian and French footwear available. Shoes are feminine and graceful-unlike much of what’s being touted on runways and observed on the streets. None scream or totter. Ninety percent of these are private label, Rande and Ryan having made adjustments. Popular versions are carried for years changing only colors or materials. Shoe price range is $300-$1500, the high end featuring exotic skins. The boutique also carries bags, jewelry, scarves, wraps, and belts. “I don’t buy a bag out of necessity. If I don’t find something I like, I won’t buy anything,” Ryan comments. “I might see a necklace and choose to take an element from it to make earrings,” Rande adds.
The shop even offers private label shapewear when needed. There’s a full, stretch piece with a snap under the crotch but no bra because Rande feels the pull does harm to one’s overall form. ($310)The specially constructed bra is sold separately. ($149)
Just down the block at the store’s Annex is an incubator for new designers, most of whom don’t sell in the USA. Ryan says the price level is mostly in the hundreds of dollars. Look there for less investment and different, innovative styling.
Women fly in for this resource. And it’s in your city.
Really Great Things
284 Columbus Avenue at 74th/75th Street
212 787 5354
Tuesday through Saturday 11:00-7:00