Four Decades Later, Paco’s Paradise Still Going Strong

Four

OCEAN CITY – Paco’s Paradise is celebrating 40 years of bringing one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted clothing to returning and new customers alike.
When John Hastings, owner of Paco’s Paradise, graduated from college in 1971, he traveled to Mexico with a fraternity brother and ended up living there for nine months. While in Mexico, he bought hand-embroidered shirts from an Indian market in Southern Mexico, Oaxaco.
When Hastings returned to the United Stated, he gifted two hand-embroidered shirts to his brother, David, while he attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
“Every time he wore the shirts people would ask where he got them, and he talked me into going back to Mexico and start exporting these shirts. That’s how it all started,” he said.
Throughout the entire decade of the 1970’s, Hastings worked in and out of Mexico exporting hand-made clothing until 1973 when the first Paco’s Paradise opened on Somerset Street in south Ocean City. It was only a year later when the clothing store moved to the Village of Fenwick in Fenwick Island. Hastings explained his brother named the store Paco, which is a nickname for Frank in Spanish.
Hastings met his wife, Teresa, a couple years later in 1976 who worked at a necklace shop in the Village of Fenwick and they married in 1983. When Paco’s Paradise first opened, the store offered primarily hand-made women’s clothing.
The Hastings take pride in not buying from companies that produce their clothing in factories or “sweat shops.”
“Throughout the entire 40 years, we have offered hand-made, very limited production clothing. It is all from what they call the ‘cottage industry’ because it was made in homes,” John Hastings said. “We were our best supplier. We would travel and we were in these people’s homes, we were eating with their children and experiencing the culture.”
In the 1990’s, the Hastings stopped importing clothing from Mexico and started importing their own private line appropriately called Paco’s Paradise from Bali and Indonesia.
“We did that until 2007 and now we have been out of the import business for five to six years but it was a great career and we got to see the world,” John Hastings said.
Currently, the Hastings buy for Paco’s Paradise from friends who remain in the importing business or from fashion trade shows.
“We buy from people we met traveling the world,” he said.
This weekend the couple will travel to a trade show in Las Vegas to buy for February, March and April next year from companies predominantly producing from offshore in foreign countries and need a six-month lead time. The Hastings will return in February to buy from domestic companies.
Is the last 10 years, the biggest change at Paco’s Paradise has been the growth in the accessories department, such as handbags, scarves and costume jewelry that now make up at least 40 percent of the store’s business.
“We go with the times … what is most unique about our store is it’s not like the typical department store shopping experience. It is a small boutique, more personalized service. There are not many boutiques around anymore, and people enjoy the personalized service. We constantly have repeat customers. We see families grow up,” Teresa Hastings said.
John Hastings said they are constantly looking ahead to the next trend.
“Rarely will we bring the same item back in. We want to look forward not backwards,” he said. “Clothing is fashion and fashion is always changing. There are always new trends … .we sell unique clothing and accessories for the 40- to 70-year-old, and it is hard for them to find it.”
Teresa Hastings added Paco’s Paradise offers casual shopping at the beach, which is what most people enjoy in this area.
“We always have fun music playing, we have a great staff, and there is usually a dog greeting you at the door,” she said of the couple’s three dogs Luna, Emmy, and the newest addition of a Labrador Retriever puppy, Linen, who John has proclaimed Paco’s Paradise’s new mascot in training.
The Hastings also own Krugerrand, a fine jewelry store in the Village of Fenwick that opened in 1976 and specializes in estate and antique jewelry. Most of the jewelry is acquired from antique jewelry dealers or customers. All diamonds are GIA certified. There is a selection of fine sapphires and tanzanite and for the silver customer a variety of blue larimar is offered, plus much more.

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