Building strong relationships with clients by providing high-quality products and personal service are some of the key components of Soleil Toile's success. This year the fine lingerie and swimwear boutique celebrated its 20-year anniversary in Westport.

"We listen to our customers and take to heart what they say to us," explained owner Marilynn Lipton. About 15 years ago, her eldest of two daughters, Stacey Lipton Schumer, of Newtown, joined the family business and together they now manage two stores, the Westport store and another Soleil Toile that opened in New Canaan three years ago.

"Many of our customers were asking me to do this," Marilynn noted. "They said that there are no lingerie stores in the area. However, the truth is that we've always loved New Canaan."

Maintaining a hands-on approach, as well as controlling the "behind-the-scenes" administrative responsibilities -- such as selecting attractive products and maintaining the stores' inventories -- the mother and daughter team travel between the two sites to oversee its daily operations.

"It's really nice to be able to work with Mom," Stacey said.

A mother of two young sons, Mathew and Jacob, Stacey admitted that she and her mother were always close. When she graduated from college, Stacey worked in the fashion industry for some time doing public relations.

"Ultimately, I find it so much more gratifying working with my mother in the family business," Stacey said, smiling. "It's wonderful to be able to watch the business grow."

Robert Hauck, branch manager of Westport's TD Bank, said that he's watched Soleil Toile's prosper in the five years he's worked with them on the company's financials. "While some retail businesses have come and gone, Soleil Toile has remained resilient even during difficult economic times," Hauck noted.

Since its flagship store opened its doors on Westport's Main Street in 1997, Soleil Toile has attracted loyal customers who travel from as far as New York and Massachusetts to shop. Twelve years ago, though, it was obvious to its owners that the business had outgrown its 1,400-square foot retail space. Soleil Toile then moved to its present location at 24 Post Road E. It was at this time that Soleil Toile added an extensive line of swimwear fashions to its inventory of designer lingerie. Soleil Toile carries upscale domestic and European lines of bras, underwear, leg wear and hosiery, nightwear, robes and slippers, and swimwear.

"Not too many places carry swimwear all year round and yet people travel and go on cruises and vacation more in the winter months than at any other time," said Marilynn. "Also, many people aren't aware that you find the best selections for swimwear during cruise season, which begins in November."

"And, let's face it, when you go on vacation, your swimsuit is what you are going to be wearing all day, every day," Stacey chimed in.

Soleil Toile not only carries swimsuits, beach cover-ups and loungewear year round, but Marilynn also added that its inventory changes every season. "People want to see new things," she noted.

And, in keeping with the Soleil's Toile's mission to properly fit all of its customers, sales associates spend time helping women select appropriate bathing attire.

"It's a process to find the right bathing suit and just as we take the time to ensure that people are fitted properly for bras, we also do the same with our swimwear," Stacey noted.

Sales associates are trained to assist clients because most women don't wear the right size or style bra, she added. "However, when they do find the right bra and under garments, their lives change," Stacey said. "At least this is what we are told all of the time."

Marilynn agreed. She added, " People come back to us and tell us being fitted properly made a huge difference because they can now wear shirts that they never thought they could. They sometimes say that they have a waist that they didn't know they had. It is like an instant makeover."

Over the years, Marilynn and Stacey have gotten to know their customers and their families well. "This is a very intimate business," Marilynn stated.

"And, we don't take that responsibility lightly," added Stacey.

For this reason, during their 20-year tenure in business, they now consider many customers their friends.

"We appreciate the fact that our customers keep coming back to us," Marilynn said. "We try to give them the best assortment of what's out there and over the years people have realized that they don't have to go to New York City to get what they need."

Moreover, the store has an acquired a reputation as the "go-to" place for "all ages and at all stages of women's lives," Marilynn added.

To this end, Soleil Toile is able to offer nursing bras, pre and post surgery undergarments, and attire for special occasions, such as bustier that are worn underneath bridal gowns.

Soleil Toile also takes special pride in providing a comfortable atmosphere for men to shop. Stacey smiles as she recalls how the store is filled with the opposite sex during the holiday months.

"Our associates are warm and welcoming and ready to assist them," she added. "Some men come up with instructions from the woman in their life. They've told them, this is where you go to get me this."

Over the years, styles have, of course, changed. Trends today lean toward wearing control garments, such as the popular Spanx brand name. Lingerie has also become more fashion-oriented, the two owners noted. "Another change that has occurred is that people now have a bra wardrobe as opposed to years ago when they had one or two bras," Stacey said.

Soleil Toile is located at 24 Post Road E, Westport, and 44 Elm St., New Canaan. For more information, call 203-454-8688.