One of the major perks to shopping local is the interaction shoppers have with the small business owner. Unless they are at market, boutique owners spend the majority of their days in their shops. They know everything about their merchandise, having personally selected and purchased each piece, so they have a vested interest in keeping their customers happy. Because of this, the customer service is excellent, and the perks of being a loyal customer are fabulous. With this in mind, get to know your local boutique owners because they certainly want to get to know you!
We visited our favorite local boutique owners and will feature a different one every other week! Each owner would love for you to stop in to say hello and there may be a surprise perk in it for you!
IRENE DORANTES: LIJ BOUTIQUE AND HAIR SALON
OWNER SINCE: May 2013
JoAnn Lanigan has been the manager of LIJ Boutique since November 2016. This past year JoAnn has taken on a much larger role to keep the shop open for owner, Irene Dorantes, who is currently battling Stage 4 ovarian cancer. While Irene is unable to work at the shop, she still does much of the back office work from home.
In the four years that we’ve known Irene we’ve learned what an amazing woman she is. She is a positive force, full of zest for life and always willing to help others. She has the kindest heart, is incredibly optimistic, and loves to work with people. She would give the shirt off her back to anyone and then ask what more she could do to help. With this in mind, we asked JoAnn how we can best support Irene.
JoAnn, how can we show support for Irene?
Irene loves her shop and wants it to thrive in her absence. She has her phone connected to the register so her phone pings when she gets a sale. She gets so excited and sends me a smiley emoji every time a sale goes through. So really the best way to show support for Irene is to shop at LIJ Boutique.
Has working with Irene changed your fashion mindset?
I owned a consignment store for about ten years but my style was very conservative and tailored. My background is in accounting, and before this year, I just did the shop’s inventory. I was able to free Irene up to do her creative thing because she’s great at playing with the clothing.
Irene eventually pulled me out of my conservative box and still inspires me to try looks that I never would have worn. She has a very feminine style that is evident in the shop’s French Country chic vibe. LIJ offers clothing, jewelry, gifts and home decor.
What is your favorite item in the store?
Our floral items and modified cold shoulder items are my favorite. We have adorable summer dresses that look great on anyone!
Tell us about LIJ Boutique and its “Irenian” Style:
LIJ Boutique has evolved over the years. Irene loves girly pieces so there used to be a lot of items with lace and ruffles in the store. The shop’s overall vibe is still very Irene (or “Irenian” which is the clever name coined by Ann-Marie) but we now also have amazing foundation pieces like the M.Rena line that is always in stock, cute basic shirts, leggings, plus size pieces, jewelry and home decor. You can also find LIJ items at Fleur De Chic on Baxter Road across from the Chesterfield Antique Mall.
HOW CAN YOU SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR IRENE:
BoutiqueNAV is all about supporting local, which is why we found a kindred soul in LIJ Boutique’s owner, Irene Dorantes. This amazing, fashionably local woman is always looking for ways to show support for her community, so we hope you’ll join us in supporting her. The best way to do this is to stop by LIJ, say hello to JoAnn, and tell her that you are thinking about Irene. You just may find the perfect thing to take home. If so, you made Irene’s phone ping, put a smile on her face and helped JoAnn earn a smiley emoji in return. (All this and you didn’t have to give a mouse a cookie.)
ALYSON GARLAND: DOTDOTDASH BOUTIQUE
OWNER SINCE: May 2008
What made you decide to open your shop?
I’ve always loved and understood the retail business and was a merchandiser for a family shoe company. Prior to opening my shop, I started designing soft, comfortable, children’s wear that had French and Spanish phrases on them with corresponding pictures so children could learn phrases in those languages. I started selling them through trunk shows to test market the idea.
I have three boys, currently ages nine to nineteen. When my youngest entered Kindergarten, I rented a tiny space near my neighborhood in De Mun and filled it with soft, comfortable, casual pieces that I found at market in New York. We carried about five simple styles of sweatpants, comfortable T-shirts and wraps for women in several colors along with my line for kids. The name DotDotDash came about as a collaboration with a graphic designer that I was working with. We threw some names around and that one stuck. It turned out to be serendipitous because I later found out that it spells the letter “U” in Morse code. When you walk into my shop, I want it to be all about YOU. Over the years it’s evolved into more of a women’s clothing store. Two years ago we moved just around the corner from our original store into our larger space right off of De Mun Avenue.
Oldest pieces of clothing that you still own:
I still have a few wraps and sweatpants from lines that I carried at the original store. People always ask me to start carrying them again because they were such great sellers.
Favorite items in the store:
The Roberta Roller Rabbit line is perfect for summer (as seen on Ann-Marie and Alyson below). The line washes great and always looks amazing.
I also love the Rosemunde line from Denmark and the Lola and Sophie shirts.
Best Part of being a store owner:
The community of people that have become my customers are like family to me. We love our customers and the neighborhood feeling here in the De Mun area.
Favorite destination to shop:
I love Intermix for their variety and I adore Barney’s New York for their inspiration and real street style. They also have a great eye for emerging designers.
Advice for any future shop owner:
Start small and sample your product before you open a store. It’s best to have an established customer base and grow from there.
JANE EPSTEIN LAVEY: GIDDYUP JANE
OWNER SINCE: April 2009
What made you decide to open your shop?
After earning my law degree I worked for my family’s business. During that time, I began creating custom, western, belt buckles. I established quite a customer base that included many celebrity musicians. Eventually, people began asking if I had other chic, western items to pair with the buckles. I realized that there was a need, and I had always wanted to open a store with a western theme. I started small by renting a corner space in my friend, Margaret Spooner’s, shop in Ladue called MACS Designs. Eventually, the space next door became available so I bought it and opened up Giddyup Jane. After about two years MACS Designs moved down the street so I took over both spaces and we are still here at that same location.
Jane’s Go-To style:
I typically have on a fabulous pair of cowboy boots (I love Old Gringo) and a Johnny Was shirt with a pair of jeans. The cool mix of western and boho is classic and never goes out of style. It works anywhere and any time.
Favorite thing in the store:
The Johnny Was brand is a staple here and our new, superstar label is Xirena. (See both brands pictured below.) Xirena has the world’s best button down classic cotton, poplin shirts! We carry several colors which always sell out. They are soft, wash well and have a fabulous fit.
What’s the favorite part of your job:
I love to buy! When I go to market, I think of my customers and what they would like, not just what I want. But above all else, everything has to look cute with cowboy boots! I always keep this in mind, with just a few exceptions. This helps keep the Giddyup Jane brand consistent.
Giddyup Jane has styles that appeal to all ages, but we don’t necessarily target teens. We do have some trendy pieces but we carry mostly classic styles for women. We have amazing jewelry, like the Tat2 line, great handbags in vegan and leather, and wonderful accessories. Although our vibe is chic western, we carry many great brands that aren’t necessarily western inspired. We carry staples that are always on “the top items that you should own” list such as, a denim jacket, a white button down blouse, cowboy boots and a great pair of jeans. You are never too old or too young to have these.
Favorite destination to shop:
When I travel I search out the local western inspired stores like mine. I also love shopping in Soho and the West Village in NYC. My inspiration for Giddyup Jane is a shop in Durango, Colorado called Eureka’s. I still visit when I travel there because I know the owner.
Advice you would give a person wanting to open a boutique:
You have to like people. If you don’t want to greet customers with a smile, talk to them, find out a little bit about them, and help them with the clothes, then this isn’t for you.
LORI ANN MALUGEN: PINK MAGNOLIA
OWNER SINCE: April 2006
What made you decide to open your shop?
I was a special education teacher but I’ve always loved the Lilly Pulitzer brand. This shop became available when my husband and I were looking for a small business that we could run as a family business. My husband was able to keep his other job and still be involved and my girls worked here all through high school and college. My daughters still do some of the back office work remotely because they no longer live in St. Louis.
What is your favorite thing in the shop?
The Gabby shift is one of my favorite pieces because it’s a style that flatters everyone, no matter what age or body shape. I also love the new romper style for Spring. It is adorable!
Is there a piece of clothing that you’ve kept through the years because you love it and can’t let it go?
Lilly Pulitzer used to do a patchwork pattern that was pieces of fabric sewn like a quilt. I’ve kept a Lilly patchwork skirt for about 25 years or so because I love it.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The shop makes people happy. It’s a little piece of sunshine in here – bright and cheery even when it’s not outside! I just love that!
How do you like being in the Ladue shopping district?
There is a great sense of camaraderie among the local shops here. We all work together, support each other and participate in events together. We’ve had this wonderful community of support from day one which is why we are still here. Our customers are incredibly loyal because they understand that we are a locally owned, family business. We strive to give back as much as possible, which is why we have the customer loyalty program, and we donate and participate in as many charity functions as possible. We love this community!
What advice would you give someone wanting to open a boutique?
You have to be all in. I’ve been devoted to this business for 11-1/2 years and, when I’m not in the store, I’m at home working on the store. I’ve seen a lot of businesses throughout the years that have come and gone and this is the most important key to success. I do have an amazing staff that has a sense of responsibility and ownership in the store which is also incredibly important.
DIANN BOSWORTH (Hand painted pieces) ~ PATTI PORTER (Florals) ~ CAROL TEMPLE (Interior Design)
OWNERS SINCE: April 2012
What made you decide to open your shop?
(Patti) I have a fashion merchandising degree but I didn’t pursue a design career until my kids were in school. At that time I started working for a floral designer in Springfield, IL who inspired me to work with florals. When I moved to St. Louis, I worked at Summer House, MKS Designs and Three French Hens. Finally I thought, I can do this as a business for myself.
(Carol) I was a teacher but decided to change my career path when my kids went to school. I took some interior design courses, started my own business and eventually went into business with Diann, who was a sorority sister of mine. I met Patti because I was one of her floral customers and introduced her to Diann and that’s how we all came together.
(Diann) I was also a teacher but started hand painting my signature black and white checked items on the side when my kids were in school. I’m inspired by MacKenzie-Childs and add my own signature look to my pieces. Eventually Carol and I started a business together painting slate roof tiles and then she introduced me to Patti.
How has a collaborative ownership worked? We all had businesses of our own and came together to blend all of our talents. Since we all bring something different to the business, we work well together. None of us would want to do it on our own because we like having each other to bounce ideas off of. We operate with a checks and balances system and it’s really worked in our favor. When one of us has an idea, we bring it to the table and receive different points of views. It’s stopped us from making several wrong turns along the way. We travel together and do things socially so we are friends as well as business partners. We think that’s important.
How did you decide to open in Kirkwood? We almost signed a lease on a different location and Carol said she was having second thoughts, so we didn’t go through with it. Carol is from Kirkwood and we all loved the neighborhood and the pedestrian friendly vibe so we settled on this location. It has been the best decision for us. We have such wonderful, loyal customers.
What is one thing in the shop that everyone should have in their home?
(Patti) An inviting door floral arrangement or wreath
(Carol) An fun animal print chair
(Diann) A home accent hand painted in black and white check
Advice you would give someone wanting to open a boutique: Figure out who your customer is going to be and find a location that pairs well with that customer. The shop should also have good vibes, and be a friendly place where people want to hang out.
ROSEMARY BARRY: HEELS BOUTIQUE
OPENED: April 2008
What made you decide to open your shop? I had my “A-hah” moment when I walked through the door of the first Heels Boutique in Chicago owned by my sister-in-law and four of her friends. I said, “This is what I want to do!” We looked for a year and a half for a good location and settled on Wildwood, MO. Originally the shop just carried shoes, handbags and jewelry but we kept adding more and more clothing as time went on. We celebrated ten years this April!
Have you always loved fashion? I’ve always loved fashion and was voted “best dressed” at school. I especially love shoes because when clothes don’t fit you can always get a new pair of shoes!
What is the oldest item of clothing that you own? I’ve had a pair of black, classic pumps for about 20 years.
Favorite thing in the shop? Our Mark Jenkins line of shoes! We could really just be a Mark Jenkins concept store because we sell so many pairs of his shoes!
Favorite part of your job? My customers. I just love all the people we’ve met that come shop with us. I really consider them friends.
Favorite destination to shop? When I’m on vacation, I really don’t shop, I relax.
The best advice you would give to someone wanting to open a boutique? Do your homework, assess the risks, but if you really want to do it – go for it! The most important thing is that you have to be present every day and in touch with your customers. If you decide to go for it you have to be all in!
LAURA RITCHIE: TLYNN’S BOUTIQUE
OWNER SINCE: December 2017
What made you decide to open your shop? It goes back to when the store (TLynn’s) was Meka. My daughter and I loved having a girls’ day out, complete with nails, shopping and lunch. When we visited the shop together we could always find styles that worked for both of us. We continued shopping there when Terri Lynn bought it and changed the name. I have always wanted to own a boutique. Several years ago there was a boutique for sale in Ladue, MO. My husband and I really considered it, but the children were small and the timing wasn’t right. In August of 2017, I meet Terri Lynn when we just happened to be at the same restaurant. We started talking and she was looking for a partner. I seized the opportunity and became her partner in September 2017. In December 2017 she decided to retire and I became TLynn’s sole owner. My theme for TLynn’s is a “Mother/Daughter Boutique” where mothers and daughters can enjoy a day out together and shop at a boutique where both can find fashionable clothes.
Have you always loved fashion? I have always loved fashion especially shoes and accessories.
What was your favorite piece of clothing when you were growing up? My favorite was probably my bell bottom jeans.
What is the oldest item of clothing that you own? A black dress that I bought after I had my daughter.
What is your favorite item in the store right now? A pair of merlot velvet sneakers with merlot satin laces.
What is the best part of your job? I’ve always enjoyed working with people, which is why I went into nursing initially. I love working one on one with a customer, helping them pick out the right clothes and accessories for their style. I also really enjoy going to market to shop for the the new and upcoming styles.
What is your favorite boutique when you travel? B. Williams is a boutique down the street from my daughter in Brentwood, California. I love shopping there because I get to spend time with my daughter and do our two favorite things which are shopping and lunch!
Advice you would give someone wanting to open a boutique. There will be good days and bad days, good seasons and slow ones. It’s important to be patient and try anything. Just because it doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Don’t buy clothes just because you like them, and remember to keep in mind that there are more sizes than extra small. Owners should always be present at the store because customers really want to see and interact with them. Support other boutiques and, lastly, the customer is always right.
SUE WICKENHAUSER: THE FINAL TOUCH
OPENED: April 2017
What made you decide to open your shop? I’ve been in retail my entire life but my husband and I opened our very first store in Union Station called Logos and Labels, which was the last to close when all the stores left. Eventually, I missed the interaction with customers and the merchandise, so we opened the first Final Touch location a few years ago and moved it to this new location last year.
Have you always loved fashion? I’ve always loved shoes and home decor. One of my favorite things is changing my house up and redecorating for each season.
What is the oldest item of clothing that you own? Back in high school I bought a leather belt that I paid $110 for, which was very expensive back then. I wore it and loved it so much that I saved it and both of my daughters wore it. I added it to one of my outfits not that long ago.
One thing in the store that everyone should have in their home: Fragrance whether it be a difuser or a candle with a scent that suits your individual taste.
What is the best part of your job? I love working with customers but I also really enjoy designing the displays in my store. My favorite thing is configuring all the merchandise in the most creative way.
Favorite destination city to shop? Chicago is a great city for shopping and I like places in the south, like Destin and Naples, Florida as well as Charleston, South Carolina.
Advice you would give someone wanting to open a boutique. You really have to enjoy working with people and have good customer service skills. You also have to have creative vision to help customers put things together, whether it be an outfit or decorating their home.
KRISTIN MAYER: THE SPOTTED PIG
OPENED: November 3, 2016
What made you decide to open your shop? I opened my shop because I really wanted to bring to St.Louis an eclectic mix of my different acquired styles. I wanted to share my passion of finding unique one of kind gifts that come from all over. It has always been a dream of mine to put all the mix of styles I have into one place. For the St. Louis customer to be able to learn to decorate their lives and home exactly how they want, free!
One thing in your shop that everyone should have in their home: Some sort of a pig! Whatever it is, from a picture to a statue to a trinket tray, I promise, it will make you smile!
RACHEL FORST: RACHEL’S GROVE
OPENED: March 7th, 2015
What made you decide to open your shop? My sister and nieces had talked about opening a women’s clothing boutique for several years. When my oldest headed off to college, the time seemed right. It was a boutique or law school. We picked a boutique!
Have you always loved fashion? I’ve always been interested in what my friends and family were wearing, but with a twist. For example, one of my sorority formal dresses in college was an off-the-shoulder dress like everyone else was wearing, but mine was in a gorgeous royal blue and white print with the off-shoulder ruffle done in the contrasting white and royal blue print. I did not look like everyone else!
What was your favorite piece of clothing when you were growing up? A tee shirt that said, “Here comes trouble!”
What is the oldest item of clothing that you own? I still own the dress that I wore to our wedding rehearsal dinner. We got married in Orlando, where I am from. My husband’s parents hosted a luau at my mother’s home. The dress is a deep kelly green with fuchsia and gold crabs on it. It was fun and casual, very Florida, and set the right tone for our event. It doesn’t fit me anymore, but I can’t bear to throw it out!
Favorite item of clothing your currently own: Any of my Jude Connally dresses. They are colorful and easy to wear. They don’t wrinkle and are machine washable.
What is your favorite item in the store right now? My favorite item in the shop right now is the Southcott Indian Summer tee in coral. It’s made from the softest bamboo, is long-sleeved, has front seem detailing, and is a high-low top. It looks great with white jeans or navy pants.
What is the best part of your job? I love watching customers come out of the dressing room when they’ve found something they love. Their entire faces light up because they feel so good. That’s the first thing I look at when a customer asks my opinion, her face. What she’s wearing is secondary.
What is your favorite boutique when you travel? I don’t have a favorite boutique. I love them all!
Favorite destination city to shop? Charleston, South Carolina
Advice you would give someone wanting to open a boutique. Location, location, location!