November 28, 2021

New Owner of Essex’s “Silkworm” Hosts Open House

"Silkworm of Essex Village" on Main Street may have changed hands but it remains very much open for business.

Asked if she can believe she owns her own fashion store at the tender age of 22,  Raeann Groves of Old Lyme stands behind the small, exquisitely decorated counter of Silkworm at Essex Village and answers simply, “No.”  She quickly adds though, “But it was always my dream … eventually.”

How does this young, attractive, former Division 1 soccer player, who exhibits a patently clear sense of fashion in her own dress, come to be the owner of this well-respected and popular Essex store?

Groves explains that the story goes back to sixth grade at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School,  when the girls on the soccer team, “Used to dress up on the morning of every game.”  And Groves doesn’t mean in costume, but rather that the soccer girls used to display their solidarity by all going to school dressed in their “best” clothes so they shared a team identity.

Silkworm owner Raeann Groves

For Groves, this was the beginning of a life-long passion for fashion.  Always regarded as a trend-setter dresser through her middle and high school years, Groves graduated with the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2007 and set off for St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, Pa.  She was not there to study fashion, however, but rather to take a management degree while she pursued the other love of her life, soccer.

Tragedy struck for Groves when at the end of her freshman year after a stand-out season for the school’s varsity team, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  Although she received the very best surgical attention, she sadly found by the end of her sophomore year that her signature speed had still not returned and playing, “Was just not rewarding anymore.”

That was when she took the decision to return to the other passion in her life and transferred to Philadelphia University to complete a fashion industry management degree.

Groves graduated from there this past May and was accepted into the  J C Penney management training program.  But she rapidly determined, in her words, that, “I wasn’t exploring my potential in the creative field — I thought I could do so much more.”

She especially missed the customer service aspect of retail merchandising, but had not planned to do anything immediate about a career change when she found herself shopping one sunny August day in Silkworm of Essex Village.  Groves was looking for a dress for her upcoming engagement photos  –  she will marry Peter Gianakos, owner of G’s Fitness in Waterford, in June 2012 – but instead, and to her complete surprise, found a business that was for sale.

That shopping trip was on a Sunday and by the following Saturday, Groves — after a series of discussions with her fiancé and family plus a string of meetings with the vendor and landlord — had placed a deposit on the store.  Previous owner Erica Morizio, who still owns Silkworm of West Hartford, has had a very amicable handover to Groves and the sale of the business was finally closed Sept. 12.

Groves is keeping the Silkworm name and still can hardly believe she is now the proud owner of her own “upscale, casually elegant boutique.”  She finds herself working seven days a week, but loving every minute of it … she also offers shopping parties at the store or in private homes, as well as personal wardrobe consultations.

Still dressed impeccably after a long day at the store, a smiling Groves says cheerfully, “For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to own my own store – this really is a dream come true.”

Editor’s Note: Groves is hosting an Open House at the store on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. when wine and hors d’oeuvres will be offered and a 10 per cent discount will be given on a total purchase.  All are welcome.