Q&A with Wendy Klein, president
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store for our readers.
Wendy Klein: Burlington, Iowa is a rural community located along the Mississippi River. Over the past several years Downtown Partners have been working diligently to revitalize the once thriving retail community. When I began this adventure I knew I wanted to be a part of the Downtown business community. There are several existing retail specialty stores and I wanted to be a part of this growing retail experience. As we move into 2015 the 400 and 500 blocks of Jefferson will receive new facades making the shopping experience even better. The downtown is growing everyday with a variety of retail and service business’s and I wanted to be a part of bringing more selection and options to the shoppers that support these local business’s. I am excited to be involved in the business community located in Downtown Burlington. Bella Ragazza is very fortunate to be located within walking distance of several of Downtown Burlington’s favorite shopping spots. Original Cyns, Gypsie and Styltique are major draws for the downtown area. I wanted to be able to offer something that would be a great addition to what is already being offered in the downtown. As the only intimate and foundation wear specialty store I am able to provide a great opportunity for women to be able to find great fitting bras, panties and shape wear that normally they would have to travel to find. We have taken our space and really made it comfortable, inviting and pretty. With spacious dressing rooms, we are able to work with customers who want personal fittings.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Wendy: What makes our store special is that we want to provide options for every women and every size. My mother always told me that a girl always needs a good bra, and I believe that. I want to be able to offer styles and sizes that are not carried in the basic department store. I want to help women feel beautiful no matter her size, shape or even style. Everyone can feel beautiful with the right fitting undergarments’. Another aspect of our store that is special is our men’s line. I wanted to be able to offer briefs, t-shirts and lounge wear for men. Woman will usually buy for the man and the man will wear it, I wanted to have that option available. I hope that the woman that come in leave totally excited about their purchases.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Wendy: As a new boutique owner what I thought I was looking for and what I learned to look for has not only been a huge learning curve but my perspective has changed. I still want quality products with good price points, but I also want to see some style and color from the brand. Some of the most important brands so far have been the shape wear, boxer briefs, foundation and loungewear. For shape wear I have had a huge success with YUMMY. It is one of the best shape wear lines I have seen; with comfort and purpose you can’t go wrong. I definitely hit a homerun with WOOD underwear for the men too. It is one of the best fitting boxers, with great feel and structure; it has been a big success. Another favorite for loungewear has been Blackspade, the women love the feel of their Silver collection. One of my favorites though is Maison De Papillon, though it is on the higher price point, it is one of the most beautiful nightwear I have ever come across. I have had several disappointments with some brands. As a new store owner I feel that some lines are more interested in selling you as much of their product as they can and not really concerned if what they sell you will really work for you. I have learned that there are brands that really want to see you succeed and they really work with you to be successful. I have definitely learned what I will not purchase again. Everything is new to the store and to me. Even though I have had some retail experience and, a huge amount of business experience, this has definitely been one of the most amazing and challenging experiences.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Wendy: Because we are a rural community, comfort and purpose are really important to the customer. They don’t mind spending a little more as long as they feel they are getting what they pay for. Although, large profits are the desire of every store owner, I really want the customer to leave with something they really love and feel good about. I want to sell them a solution not just a product.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Wendy: I am staying between mid to mid/high price ranges. That seems to be the right arena for this area. I really want to be able to offer sizes in a wide range. If we don’t have it, I will order it. Currently we offer small to Xlarge and 32-42/A-GG. It seems like a nice range to start with but I still want to grow it a little more.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Wendy: We really get all shapes and sizes of women as well as ages. I really want to be able to offer something for all women whether it is a young girl getting her first bra or the mature women who needs a little more coverage or lift. Every woman is different and I want to be able to offer our customers a good selection that fits their needs.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Wendy: We primarily serve the female customer in a variety of ages, but we want to also reach out to the males. That is why we incorporated a men’s line. Women will buy for their men and men will buy for their women if they know they will get good advice and a great product their women will love.
Ted: What has impacted your business the most over the past year?
Wendy: I wish I was through my first year actually but I have only been open since October 2014. But even though it has been a short time I have definitely learned a great deal as to what the customers are looking for and in the price range they want. I have also learned some very valuable lessons about what I should not have purchased. I have a better understanding now and realize that this will be a challenging learning experience. I hope to learn from my mistakes and continue making progress. I have started to create great relationships with people and am trying to learn from their knowledge and experience. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, just make it a little prettier.