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Monday, May 6, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Connie St. George, Director of Sales and Marketing for Geiger of Austria Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

Connie St. George

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Constance “Connie” St. George is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Geiger of Austria, located in Middlebury, Vermont. Geiger of Austria is Geiger GmbH's US subsidiary and handles sales and marketing for North America. Connie has worked for Geiger for 29 plus years in several capacities. 

Her humble beginnings start in 1949 in Fall River, Massachusetts where she grew up on the family dairy farm with her 4 siblings. Her early years were spent helping out on the farm and attending local schools in Fall River. In 1967 she graduated from BMC Durfee High school and the very next day moved to Vermont. Her family had sold their farm and bought a larger one in Cornwall, Vermont. The setting was amazing – 325 acres, a Colonial style house and an idyllic setting. From there she took a year off before heading back to Massachusetts to attend college at Bridgewater State University where she was working towards a teaching degree. After a couple of years she realized this was not the right choice for her. She moved back to Vermont, married her sweetheart and started a family. For the next few years she worked part-time. As her daughter grew and started pre-school she got back into the job market working as a sales associate in Maine where her husband's work had taken them. Over the next few years her family moved from Maine to New Hampshire and eventually back to Vermont during which time she worked in several sales positions from sales associate to management trainee and finally sales manager. Upon returning to Vermont she found work managing a local book store – a job she loved – until the store closed and she found GEIGER. 

At first she worked in their Production Department before getting the opportunity to work in their Customer Service Department. It was here that she fell in love with the Fashion business. For the next few years she worked hard learning the business as well as developing a relationship with Geiger's customers. She wondered “Why didn't I pursue work in this field before?” It seemed such a natural progression – a no-brainer as they say. She always had a passion for clothes & accessories – her favorite thing to do as a child was open mom's old steamer trunk and try on all the clothes from the 40's & 50's and wish she was big enough for them to fit. I guess some things have to be put in front of you several times before they can be recognized or appreciated. 

Her love of the product and self-motivated personality – (she's a Type A personality) served her well over the next 15 or so years. She was promoted several times, first to Customer Service Supervisor then to Assistant Sales Manager, Co-Sales Manager and eventually to Director of Sales and Marketing. It has been a marvelous ride! She still loves going to work every day and looks forward to each season's new Collection. 

While working at GEIGER she had the opportunity of going back to school and taking many classes to help her grow her career, Sales training courses, computer skills, communication and conflict skills, language classes in French and German and many other sales and fashion related courses have been taken over the many years. Her motto is “You're never too old to learn!”
Through her work at GEIGER she has also had the opportunity to travel across the United States, Canada and parts of Europe opening her eyes to the International scope of her company's business. She has been able to meet people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe. GEIGER is universal and its quality clothing translates no matter where it's shown. GEIGER's use of primarily natural fibers has made it a staple for people worldwide. Its Eco-friendly practices has also endeared it to those concerned with our environment and the quality, styling and fabrication of their garments keeps them relevant wherever they are shown.
Her private life is full too. She and her husband Gary live on 50 acres of land in a 2 story cedar log home that he built from scratch. With their 6 (rescued) cats and 1 dog they enjoy life to the fullest in the beautiful Vermont countryside. During her time at GEIGER her daughter has grown, completed college, married and had 2 children. Her family continues to be the love of her life besides her husband Gary of course as well as her involvement in the local Lions Club, a group devoted to helping people in the community in need.   We are absolutely thrilled to present Connie St. George as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Connie for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What should everyone in Manhattan understand about New England, and what do you love about New England?
Connie St. George: I love its diversity - many parts are very green and rural while there are large metropolitan cities within driving distance. You get the best of both worlds. You also have wonderful coastal towns and incredible mountain vistas for those weekend get-aways. It's everything one could hope for if your looking for an idyllic lifestyle away from the everyday hustle and bustle of city life while still keeping it within reach. 

What is it like to work for such a distinguished, prestigious brand with such rich history?
It has been a wonderful experience to have been privileged to find such a wonderful company and brand in rural Vermont. It has been a dream come true. How many people truly find work that they love in a company that treats them with respect and fairness??? I wish I could say I looked them up and consciously looked for a job but I accidentally found them and it has been the best find of my life. Not only do they treat their employees like family but they promote from within as much as possible and offer it's employees training, travel and the opportunity to advance. 

What do most people not know about Geiger that they should know? 
GEIGER was started by Mr. Geiger's grandmother Barbara in 1906-quite an entrepreneurial woman for the times. They were also "green" way before being "green" came into fashion! Geiger has been recycling everything from fabric to air since the late 80's. They developed a method of producing boiled wool without chemical s and received an award from the Tyrol government 12 or so years ago. 

Of all of the places in America, how did Geiger decide to settle in Middlebury, VT? 
A very entrepreneurial gentleman - C.J. Kvasnak, owner of a shop called Skihaus in Middlebury had been importing GEIGER for it's store and after a few years contacted the GEIGER family to discuss selling their product in the US. Once the GEIGER brothers came to Vermont to meet with him they fell in love with the countryside. It reminded them of Austria - just on a smaller scale and as they hired Mr Kvasnak to manage their new facility it only made sense to build in Middlebury - a place the entire GEIGER family has spent much time. 

What should city dwellers in Manhattan know about living on a farm? 
It's a whole different world. Your entire world view is different due to your daily life experiences - from feeding and raising animals to tilling the soil and growing your own crops and food. I believe we are more grounded if we start life this way. My early experiences helped me keep things in perspective once I ventured to the big city. Farm life can be hard and at times cruel but the positives far out weigh the negatives . You understand where the food you eat comes from - how it's grown and processed, how life begins and sometimes ends - it's not so scary - it's just life. 

When you managed a bookstore what was that like and what skills did you acquire that you apply to your job today? 
My time managing the book store was a great learning experience besides being a great job. I learned to organize my schedule to accommodate the daily needs of this thriving business, scheduling staff, ordering stock, bookkeeping skills as well as finding ways of keeping your staff motivated. All skills that I took with me to GEIGER. I was also able to meet and partner with local businesses and form close relationships that are useful even today. Networking is a very useful tool in the sales industry and one I continue to foster. 

What are your favorite books? 
My favorite books are Dan Brown mysteries, the Jean Auel series, any good suspense dramas along with the occasional biography. 

How did you wind up working at Geiger? 
Totally by accident - my brother-in-law was building an addition on the GEIGER building and heard they were looking for help so he gave them my name. I was looking for work but had not considered Geiger but I went in for an interview and the rest is history. 

How has Geiger changed over your years there and what challenges exist for brands like it in today's economy? 
Geiger has changed in that we have tried to keep up with technology over the years as well as fashion trends. Now everything is on computer and you can keep current no matter where you might be. Also the GEIGER children have all joined the company with fresh ideas for the future. 

Can you please tell us about Geiger's eco-friendly practices? 
GEIGER has been "green" for years - way before it was "Fashionable" to do so. GEIGER was presented an award from the Tyrolean government for developing a process to make boiled wool without the use of chemicals. GEIGER also recycles everything from scrap fabric to air another practice that has been going on for over 20 years. 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
My dad has been my greatest influence. He always said if your going to do something try and be the best at it. He also hated apathy - he would say nothing worthwhile in life is accomplished without passion. You have to be involved in order to be effective. I am a very competitive person so it isn't hard to stimulate me to excel especially when it relates to something I love. 

What are you proudest of and why?
 I am most proud that I found the perfect match career-wise and was still able to raise a family. I often wondered how women with children were able to have successful careers and have time for their families. GEIGER made it easy as they also believe strongly in family values - it is of course a family business started by Mr. Geiger's grandmother. At GEIGER you are never penalized for putting family first. I was able to advance my career while still being able to devote time to my daughter and husband. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
The only other thing I might consider is opening my own business. I have often wondered what that might look like. If I ever develop a clear picture of that business who knows!!!! 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
 I have received several awards and commendations over the years from Certificates of Appreciation for "teaching" a School to Work" class at GEIGER for 4 or 5 years to Certificates of Recognition for Sales related achievements. 

What one word best describes you and why? 
Sassy - I have quite a passionate personality. Sometimes it serves me well but it can also backfire. I occasionally get too worked up over things. Life is never dull with me around. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
 Wow that's a difficult question. I love so much about New York it's hard to pick one thing. New York has the best restaurants, best shopping, best museums and best theater. How can you pick just one thing??? 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
Saks, Bergdorf's & Bloomingdales - I also love Top Shop 

What is your favorite drink?
A Pomegranate Cosmopolitan 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
I accidentally went in to the wrong room at a hotel cocktail party for Fashion brands from Europe and didn't realize it for almost 1/2 hour. I was trying to network and wondered why people were confused at my questions. They worked in the food industry. I was at the wrong event!!! 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Trattoria Dell Arte, 900 Seventh Ave., I could eat there 7 days a week. Their 21 vegetable minestrone soup and 100 and 1 layer lasagna are superb. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is probably my favorite although I really enjoyed One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell - it was very amusing. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
A man - just to find out how their minds work and to see if I would be treated any differently. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
A park because I grew up in the country and love all the greenery plus so many people could enjoy it. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? -
Carrying or rolling samples down the sidewalks of Manhattan - it's something I will never forget. Or just walking around the city - I have walked from the east side to the west side several times - now that's a workout. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Look out of the window of the apartment I stay in and view the Empire State building, the Hudson River and the George Washington bridge. The view at night especially with all the lights is outstanding! 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
My great grandfather - I found out that he was an abandoned baby. We couldn't find out much about his life as some records (in Portugal) have been destroyed over the years. I would love getting to know more about him and how he grew up. Was he adopted and if so was he happy as a child. Perhaps he knew who his birth-family was?? 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
My best Art experience has been visiting MOMA during a special exhibit of Toulouse Latrec - my best friend graduated from Parsons and I would accompany her on some of her work assignments to different museums. Looking at art through her eyes made it so much more exciting and gave me a new insight into artists and their works. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
Of course I donate to causes that touch me but I have also volunteered over the years to chaperone class trips, chaperone school events, tutor, help teach a School to Work program, donated food to our local food shelves, Humane Society etc. I am also a member of my local Lions Club and we have raised money for our Boys & Girls Club, Senior Center, local families with special needs, flood victims, our local theater. our town hall restoration etc. We are all volunteers and we donate 100% of what we raise to the community. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 
Overrated - lots of young people think that New York is where they have to be to have a successful career in fashion. I am proof that you don't have to live in the city to make it. Underrated - the friendliness of New Yorkers - everyone says they are rude and won't give strangers the time of day. That just isn't so - I have met many wonderful people who have been helpful to me when I have been in need of directions, recommendations or just someone to talk to. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
Manhattan Tips - it's such a useful column. Peachy always finds the best of the best in every category. 

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
Not yet - maybe Peachy and I can go for a drink on my next visit and I can try one! 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I love to dance and I have 6 rescued cats and one dog. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 

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