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Behind the Design: The Original Chico's Store


Renovating the Chico's Sanibel Island Store After Hurricane Ian

After opening its doors on Sanibel Island in 1983, Chico’s has been a part of the dynamic Southwest Florida community for over 40 years. As a result of the extensive damage from Hurricane Ian - one of the worst storms to make landfall in US history, the Sanibel Island store underwent a complete renovation allowing for the opportunity to update and modernize this revered historical location.

The Chico’s Director of Store Design, Chris Barriscale, shares his experience in redesigning the original Sanibel Island store.

An Interview with Chico's Director of Store Design

Hurricane Ian devastated many homes and businesses in our community. What challenges did you face with this store in the aftermath of the storm?

Chris: Shortly after the storm, we had a team travel out to Sanibel by boat to assess the damage. Our store was affected from top to bottom, with extensive damage to the roof and flooding from the storm surge.


Can you share some of your inspiration for the new design?

A: When it came time to rebuild the store, our concept was to create a modern version of Chico’s and to not be inhibited by the past. The goal was to create a bright, buoyant atmosphere that was inviting and also easy to navigate.

In terms of style and aesthetic, how would you define the essence of the store now?

Chris: We wanted to give the store a sense of history and a sense of timelessness in the finishes, contrasting some of these patinaed finishes with the crisper white elements of the ceiling and fixtures. The materials we chose are warm rustic oak and we have lime wash paint on the wall to help achieve this.

Which elements remain from the original design and architecture?

Chris: When I started at Chico’s in 2019, I visited the original store, and I could instantly see why it was such a local attraction with its funky vibe. We don’t want to lose that, and we'll still have those elements with the fixtures and artifacts displayed around the store. In terms of architecture, we were able to keep the original post at the foot of the staircase.

What’s your favorite feature of the new store?

Chris: The ceiling – it was such a challenge to figure out. Originally the ceiling was open to the trusses, but in the new design it felt somewhat chaotic. How do we create a sense of height while reducing the amount of visual noise? Sounds like a simple idea but it took a lot of effort to get the puzzle pieces to fit together.

What does it mean to you to be working on the original Chico’s?

Chris: It’s an honor – this store was the birthplace of a company that now has 3 brands and over 1,500 stores. I think it’s an amazing testament to the original owners.

The store features warm oak and brass display fixtures, beamed ceilings with concealed up lighting, rustic oak flooring, and custom colored lime painted walls to create a smart and casual backdrop.

The new design pays tribute to the brand’s history with heritage furniture from the original location, and brand artifacts displayed around the store.
The second floor features an intimate Soma shop-in-shop with a dedicated fitting area.

The newly expanded fitting area has been redesigned to create a more intimate and elevated customer experience. The fitting rooms feature painted wood wainscoting, linen wall coverings, framed artwork, and multiple backlit 3-way mirrors to provide flattering customer lighting.