“Getting to Know Sue Clifton, Dooney & Bourke”: An interview series by Nancy Hornback

by on ‎06-25-2013 03:21 PM

Dooney & Bourke is arguably one the most prestigious handbag brands on the market.  Sue Clifton, who was been with Dooney since the mid-90’s, has been coming to QVC for the past 15 years to share her love and knowledge of the brand.  My first impression was that she was soft-spoken and reserved.  I thought for sure she was going to be very serious with nary a funny bone in her body.  Wrong!  I quickly learned that she is as witty as they come and has a heart the size of Texas!  I hope you enjoy getting to know Sue as much as I did!

NH:  You live and fly in from Florida for the Dooney & Bourke shows. Have you lived there all of your life?

Sue: No, I was born in Germany.  When I was 6 months old, my family moved to upstate New York.  From there we ventured down to Florida & then Colorado. Colorado is where I met my High School sweetheart, Joel. When we got married, we moved to Texas.  12 years later I was back in Florida.  That’s why I act so messed up! I don’t know where I’m from!  (Laughs)

NH:  I got wind that your nickname in High School was “Twiggy”.  True?

Sue:  Yes!  It was because I was so skinny!  (I think my body is making up for it now, depriving it all those years!)  I was very athletic. I ran cross country and placed 8th in the state of Florida back in 1977.  I won the “Presidential Award for Fitness” four years in a row.  I have two from President Carter, one from Ford and one from Nixon (if you can believe it) for my achievement in physical fitness. 

NH:  You mentioned you married your high school sweetheart. When did you marry?

Sue:  Shortly after high school.  It was July 26, 1983.  We were 20.

NH: Did you have children? 

Sue: Yes, two. My son, Nicholas, and my daughter, Nichole.  I chose their names, so that when I get older I can just say, “Nic.…”, and they’ll both come running.  (Laughs

NH: Tell me more about them.

Sue:  Nick is going to be 30 in July and was just married in February. I’m already wishing for a baby from him and Leslie.  But they’ve said, “Simmer down, Teapot, we’re going to wait a year!”  Nicole is 27 & was married two years ago.  We’re not going to get a grandbaby from her and Jay any time soon, either. They’re focusing on their careers, traveling and having a good time. 

NH:  For many of my friends, parenting a teenager always seems to be the most difficult phase.  How was it for you?

Sue:  Well, our son was the trouble-maker of the family. He’s only 20 years younger than us and was trying to do the same stuff we had done, not so long ago.  He couldn’t get away with anything!  He is now the most respectful, gentle individual you’ll ever meet.  My daughter never got in trouble; however, we found out later that she was far worse than my son, just smarter. (laughs)  Nicole played basketball. So, I was the parent who took the team to their “away” games.  She couldn’t stand to have me around. But now that she is 27, we talk every day.  We’re so close; it’s unbelievable! 

NH:  Any advice for struggling parents?

Sue:  When they’re in their teens, they hurt you so badly because they don’t know any better.  No matter how much they hate you or hurt you, bottom line: you’re still the parent. And remember, it won’t be like this forever! 

NH:  Are you a music buff?

Sue:   Yes, I love country music and classic rock. Can’t dance for heck!  I just can’t get the top of my body to move with the bottom, so it’s not a pretty thing if I start. 

NH:  I know you have a hectic work and travel schedule.  Do you cook or make reservations? 

Sue: I LOVE to cook.  My husband and I hardly ever go out to dinner.  The two of us just get in the kitchen, pull up a recipe, agree on it, and then we just make it.  For instance, last night we made salmon with an orange butter sauce that was delicious.  I’m the type of person that if you showed up at my house tonight, I could make you a gourmet meal.  I always make sure I have a stuffed pantry for anything unexpected. 

NH:  So, is it safe to say you like to entertain, too?

Sue:  Yes!  Joel & I love to entertain! We have people over at least once, if not twice, a week.  During football season (we’re big Denver Bronco fans) we cook up a storm on Saturday and open our doors on Sunday.  People come and go as they please because they know we’ll have football on from 11 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night.  They come by golf cart, by car or by boat since I live on the water.

NH:  What do you like to serve up for dessert?

Sue:  Fluff Berries

NH:  Fluff Berries?

Sue:  Yes, Fluff Berries! They’re awesome!  Here’s my secret recipe:

Fluff Berries

1-8     oz Cream Cheese, softened

1-7.5oz jar of Marshmallow Fluff

2-Large Packages of Fresh Strawberries

Mix the cream cheese & Fluff until smooth.  Core the center of the strawberries.  Put the fluff mixture into a medium zip lock baggie, snip the corner.  Squeeze into the strawberry center & enjoy!

NH:  Sounds delish!  Did your mom teach you how to cook? 

Sue: My mom was German, so her cooking was very different then mine!  Let’s just say she could grab a rabbit from the front yard & eat it. It truly grossed me out!  At Thanksgiving I had to ask to see the packaging because I wanted to make sure she didn’t go kill a neighbor’s turkey or something.  (Laughs)

NH:  (Laughing) My Grandpa Hornback was known to grab a squirrel and serve it up! Yikes! We’re definitely cut from the same cloth!  So, you love music, cooking, entertaining…anything else that’s a “love”?

Sue:  We love to snow ski.  We go skiing in Colorado, where I grew up, at least twice a year.  And I love to fish.

NH:  What was your first job? 

Sue:  I worked the register at the “U-Pick Farm” in Florida when I was 15.

NH:  When did you start working for Dooney & Bourke? 

Sue:  I started with them back in 1984 when I was living in Texas.  And, in Texas, Dooney & Bourke was huge!  So much so, that cars were doing “smash and grabs”. They would drive into the center of a mall to rob the Dooney & Bourke counter.  It was unbelievable.  It seemed so silly; but, it was the brand, the quality.  Anyway, in 1995 I was asked to take over the Florida territory and have been there ever since.

NH:  How has Dooney survived as a “prestige” brand?

Sue:  Peter Dooney.  He is so passionate about what he does.  He’s involved with every aspect of building a bag & has stayed true to the brand from the beginning.  He could have had any number of companies manufacture products & slap his name on it.  But, he hasn’t...because his name is on it!  You know, Dooney is still owned by Dooney and Burke, just two individuals. 

NH:  People always want to know if the Dooney on QVC is a “watered down version” of Dooney at retail.

Sue:  Nope.  There’s only ONE Dooney & Bourke!

NH: In general, what guides you through life?

Sue: You know, I’m the most positive person you’ll probably ever meet.  It doesn’t matter what arises in life (and it has), I’m not one to harp on “poor me”.  I love to be positive.  That’s how I roll through life.  And I also like to say, “I have never met a stranger”.  Everybody I meet, I love.

NH:  Where do you get your strength when times get tough?

Sue:  From others who are less fortunate than me. They give me perspective. I’m the type of person who will put a box of presents on my neighbor’s doorstep if I know they don’t have enough money for Christmas.  Or if I’m in line at the grocery store & know the person behind me is struggling, I’ll give the cashier an extra twenty to put towards their groceries and walk out the door.  I do this quite a bit, but never want anyone to know it was me.  I’ve been doing things like this forever.  I do it because it makes me feel good knowing I’ve made a difference. 

NH:  One final question, what’s new and exciting with Dooney & Bourke? 

Sue:  We introduced our little flower prints for Mother’s Day.  It was just a fun, make-you-smile bag done in coated cotton.  For fall we’ll be introducing hot new Florentine shapes, shearling, and fantastic croco!!!!

NH:  Can’t wait!  By the way, Happy Belated 50th Birthday to you & your husband! 

Sue: Thank you!  I can’t believe it!  My husband turned 50 in May, and I turned 50 on June 7th

NH:  Here’s to another 50 years!  Thank you, Sue!  

Tune in or link to QVC for Dooney & Bourke: Saturday, June 29, 2013 from 5 – 7 p.m. ET and  Saturday, July 13, 2013 from 8 – 10 p.m. ET