Those of you who have followed the shopping columns and features I’ve written for the magazine know how much I support local retail for the important role independently owned stores and boutiques play in bringing interest and texture to any shopping area.
My loyalty to small boutiques began when I lived in Manhattan and day after day was left intoxicated by the glut of visual stimulation provided by the bounty of stores lining its streets and avenues. Every Saturday I’d wake to spin a sort of imaginary shopping roulette wheel. Was today the day I’d head out to hit Union Square, the stores of lower Fifth, ABC Carpet & Home and Fishs Eddy to see what they had to offer? Or should I head down to the artful designer boutiques and street stalls of Soho before exploring the treasure shops of Chinatown? What about scoping out the street fairs of Chelsea, the bounty of Barney’s or the bookstores and boutiques of Greenwich Village? Or wandering the cool, quirky and alternative shops of the East Village and later meandering over to Orchard Street to barter with the shopkeeps? Of course there were always the exclusive shops and boutiques along Fifth Avenue (Bergdorf’s being my hands down favorite) and Madison Avenue to salivate over as well as the bounty of Upper West Side shops I always seemed to find plenty of great deals at, including an overstock designer shoe boutique whose unbelievably low prices and mysterious hours often left me wondering if the merchandise was well …”hot.” But no matter where I went or what I saw, whether I purchased something or not, all those retail explorations were definitely worth it as they illustrated how the visual merchandising of each store expressed its individual focus and personality while encouraging shoppers to rethink and rework style to define their own particular tastes. In short, these weekly sojourns were a celebration of the excitement local independent retail has to offer.
So when I moved, did I miss those shops? You bet I did. Tremendously. But that was then and this is now, and fortunately, I landed here at a time of economic growth when Milwaukee was welcoming its own crop of fresh new stores ready to upgrade the city’s style quota. And though we’ve lost some pretty cool boutiques over the course of this last money slump, I’m happy to say there’s still plenty of positive local energy going on, and I, for one, am all for keeping it going.
It’s why I’m happy to give a shout out to the Boutique Blowout Feb. 26 (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) in Shorewood. This terrific event got its start a few years ago when Liz LeBlanc of SHOP was trying to come up with a clever way to sell postseason merchandise to make room in the store for new spring fashions and accessories. Figuring that other shops must also find themselves in the same predicament, LeBlanc approached local retailers to see if they were interested in condensing all their sale merchandise under one roof to make it super easy for shoppers to cash in on some great bargains. Were they ever! Now in its third year, LeBlanc couldn’t be more pleased with how this terrific sale of fashions and accessories for the entire family has been received. “The vibe is great,” she says. “It’s nice being able to meet and spend time with the other shop owners and fun to see customers getting so excited about all the unbelievable discounts.”
As a first time participant, fellow local retailer Britton Domer of Patricia Shoppe says she’s looking forward to being a part of the event. “Given Wisconsin’s long winters, we’ll be offering deep discounts on cold weather fashions customers can still get a lot of use out of.” Seeing the sale as a way to introduce potential new customers to her store, Domer feels “Boutique Blowout is a win-win for both shoppers and boutiques.”
Lydia Hamilton-Monnie of Boutique Larrieux couldn’t agree more and says she’s “thrilled to be introducing her fashion-forward plus-size offering to this year’s Blowout, giving shoppers amazing deals on chic career wear, elegant evening gowns, funky accessories and much, much more.”
What else can you expect from to find at the sale? Well as a teaser, how about 50 percent off sustainable, couture pieces designed and manufactured in NYC from Olive Fine Organic Living or 60-75 percent off select seasonal fine men’s apparel from Harley’s? Other participating retailers include The Lemon Tree, Vieux et Nouveau, Patricia Shoppe, Motherlode, Pam’s Pedestal Platters, Bijoux, Flaire, Miss Ruby, Molloys and Lu & Ju Boutique Café. Just remember, not all vendors can process credit cards, so be sure to bring some spending cash. $5 admission (to benefit Shorewood’s Drive 2 Distinction athletic improvement initiative). Atwater Elementary School Cafetorium, 2100 E. Capitol Dr. (parking lot off Murray Ave.). For more info, please call 414-962-4030.