Michigan boutique ditches brick and mortar, models business like a food truck

LANSING, MI – In the restaurant industry, a handful of businesses have ditched brick-and-mortar buildings, opting instead to find customers via a mobile food truck. Devon Bradley, founder of Belle Row Boutique[1], decided that could work in the fashion industry just as well. Originally from Jackson, Bradley graduated from Michigan State University in 2008, worked in public relations and opened her boutique on the side in East Lansing in December 2013.

Three years later, she implemented her new model. “I was noticing the national trend of the food trucks and the pop-up shops and traveling boutique-style stuff,” Bradley said. “So I thought I would do that with my business. I changed the whole business model.”

Bradley now works out of a downtown Lansing fashion incubator called The Runway, 300 S. Washington Square, where she keeps her inventory and does private appointments. She rents an SUV whenever she goes out on the road and has a system to fit almost all of her seasonal inventory inside.

Belle Row has four main business components – private appointments, Girls Night Out events booked in peoples’ homes, pop-up shops and online sales. The boutique has been booked across the state – from Grand Rapids to Milan. Its next booking is at Sandhill Crane Vineyards[2] near Jackson from 4 to 7 p.m.

Friday, April 13, for a Sip ‘n Shop event[3]. “I’m reaching these markets I never did when I had brick and mortar, being able to travel,” Bradley said. About the inventory

Nothing at the shop costs more than £100 and most items are between £15 and £60, Bradley said. The target audience is young professionals in their 20s through 40s. Bradley searches for quality, yet affordable brands like Flying Monkey Jeans for her shop.

She gets six of everything, has about 50 different items and rarely restocks the same items. Belle Row[4] has dresses, pants, jackets, scarves, tops, jewelry and almost everything except shoes. She describes it as fun, laid-back, fashion-forward and trendy.

Many items come from the Los Angeles area. “A lot of the stuff out there is way ahead of what we get here,” Bradley said. “So I walk the line of taking what is starting to become popular but not having it here so soon or so much that it’s weird.” While keeping up with the trends is crucial, Bradley said it’s important to match clothing to a person’s body type.

The one-on-one interaction her new business model brings helps accomplish that. For personal appointments at the fashion incubator, Bradley pulls items ahead of time and welcomes customers with coffee, wine and champagne. The 30-, 60- or 90-minute appointments are free.

Customers try on items and Bradley facilitates the fitting. “They feel kind of special, like a celebrity, because there’s nothing like this in the area,” Bradley said. “There are things like this in Chicago, New York, L.A., but you either make a certain level of income or be famous.” Some people come on their lunch hour, some bring a friend.

Nobody’s left without taking something home, Bradley said.

“It’s kind of like an experience, more than anything else,” Bradley said.

References

  1. ^ Belle Row Boutique (www.bellerowboutique.com)
  2. ^ Sandhill Crane Vineyards (www.sandhillcranevineyards.com)
  3. ^ Sip ‘n Shop event (www.facebook.com)
  4. ^ Belle Row (www.facebook.com)

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