Q&A with Joni Dowling, Owner
Ted: Please describe your store for our readers?
Joni Dowling: Once I decided that I wanted to take this type of risk...opening a retail store when the economy was still at its worst, Kilmarnock, VA seemed like the place. My husband and I have property in the area so for more than a decade I had been shopping in Kilmarnock during our weekend visits. Kilmarnock is a business hub that dates back to the 1700s and is resilient in that it has burnt down several times in its history. This type of resilience can be seen in me as a breast cancer survivor. Adversity defines us...but it is up to us on how we chose to respond and act. Kilmarnock’s merchants and its community represent the hometown values that I grew-up with. Other towns and cities seem to have lost their way...once vibrant, now tired and depressed. You will have to visit Kilmarnock, VA to appreciate what I am saying.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Joni: What makes my store special is the chemistry between our customers and our team. It is an experience that is authentic. You will have to visit the store and feel the positive energy that emerges and becomes contagious. You have heard the saying, “location, location, location”. Well, what also makes Attitude Boutique special are the surrounding merchants. Next to Attitude Boutique is Merle Norman by Jennifer Bishop. She is a sought-after make-up artist. A few stores down is Burke’s Fine Jewelers. The combination of my store, Jennifer’s and Burke’s makes your visit priceless...one stop shopping in a matter of minutes.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Joni: Quality, comfort, and transcending style - are my number one priorities and after that it is price. If my customers are like me, they don’t want to buy something that is disposable. I would rather spend my money on clothing and accessories that are built to last multiple washing and then some. I think our customers feel the way. I also focus on intimates and hosiery that work well for me because I work long hours and if I am in the store, it means standing on my feet most of the day. As far as intimates, I love Hanky Panky underwear, Commando bras and hosiery, and Bumbrella shapewear which have a built in panty and seem to prevent static cling. There are other brands that have disappointed me as a retailer and customer of my own store. I don’t like paying $40 for a pair of underwear only to have the lace fall apart after a few washing and then be told by the company that it is because I did something wrong...after that, I dropped the line. I’ve done the same with a couple of clothing lines. I think these companies should take a close look at their quality control and improve their testing operations. Customers should not be the test bed for their products. I also liked Bumbrella’s approach in introducing its product to me. I received a free pair to try without any commitment. Bumbrella is the newest product in our store. It is easy to fall in love with Bumbrella once you wear them...much like the other lines that I carry. Of course, Attitude Boutique carries other products too. We carry tops, jeans, dresses, and handbags, and some bath products from FarmHouse Fresh. Some of our most popular apparel lines are Plume and Thread, Katherine Way, Dizzy Lizzie, Britt by Britt Ryan, Three Dots, Bailey 44, Beija Flor jeans, and our latest addition, Bobeau.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Joni: Attitude Boutique is located within the coastal region of Virginia. It is Bay (as Chesapeake Bay) life. Its citizens and visitors enjoy recreational boating, fishing, and anything else outdoors. The area, also known as the Northern Neck (NNK) is becoming a popular destination. It is a great place to shop, eat, and stay during the weekends, holiday vacations, or for an outdoor wedding with the Bay and its beautiful landscape in the background. The popular styles or trends seem to be clothing that is stylish...fashion forward but not leaning so far forward that she couldn’t wear it again and again next year or the year after that. Any of our clothing selections can stand on its own or can be dressed up with accessories for an evening event.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Joni: Our price points for our clothing run from $45 to $198. Accessories run from $15 to $65 and if you include our leather handbags by Hobo then they can go as high as $298 for a beautifully made, large leather handbag. This wide price range allows us to offer something for everyone. Our size range is from a size 2 to a size 14.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Joni: Our customers, like their ages, vary. Because our styles are transcending in that they cross generations, our customers fit a wide range of sizes. I think our size range is based on the types of transcending styles.
Ted: What does your average customer spend per visit to your store?
Joni: On average our customers spend between $125 to $350 dollars per visit.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Joni: The majority of our customer base is females. During the holidays we will have men visit the shop looking for a special gift for her...a girlfriend, a wife, or a mother. Our youngest customer has been 12 years of age and our most mature customer has been 72. I would say the average age is between 35 and 55.
Ted: What has impacted your business the most over the past year?
Joni: Attitude Boutique is still a fairly new business. We will be celebrating our third anniversary this Labor Day weekend. Two things have impacted the business over the past year. I changed our team. My new team shares my vision for the future and my values. They pay attention to the details - making a connection with each customer and understanding her needs. They understand the lines that we carry and match these styles to the individual. The second thing that has happened is the “word of mouth” phenomenon about Attitude Boutique. Social media has helped launch our store and helped us keep pace with what is trending. We love it when a posting of one of our Attitude Girls goes viral. It says a lot about her, our store, and the designer. Thanks again for the opportunity to do this. I have a full-time job in Washington, DC so starting this business was a dream for me that, with the support and love from my family, became a reality. It is my passion and I am grateful for the ability to put it all in motion. I’d like to give credit to our freelance artists, Lyle Eesley and Kathryn Humphreys, who captured the essence of Attitude Boutique through their photography.