You might have noticed fashion trucks rolling around town, popping up at venues that include local farmers' markets and college campuses.
Like food trucks, fashion trucks offer an assortment of goods, often with a theme. Some trucks focus on accessories. Others feature budget merchandise. One in the Baltimore area specializes in fair-trade products.
And like food trucks, fashion trucks are attractive to business owners because of their lower startup costs, which can be as little as $10,000. Traditional stores can cost $200,000, with annual rent topping $30,000, plus utilities and other costs, according to industry experts.
"It was less expensive than a brick-and-mortar store," said Laura Green, owner of Go Gorgeous, a newly launched fashion truck. "I didn't have to take out a loan."
Almost all of the Baltimore fashion trucks are owned and operated by women, something that appealed to Stacey Chambers, owner of Go-Go's Retread Threads, which specializes in vintage and thrift clothing.
"I have so many people that come to me weekly and tell me I inspired them to start their own business," Chambers said. "That is amazing."
"In order to operate a fashion truck you have to have a free-spirited energy and willingness to try new things," said Koren Ray, co-owner of Hobo, the Annapolis-based company known for its leather goods and Mobile Hobo truck. "Fashion trucks represent that spirit. They require you to take your special vision out to the people will respond to it most."
With Boulevard of Chic, a fashion truck rally and outdoor shopping event coming up Saturday at Pierce's Park near the Inner Harbor, here's a list of some of the region's top options (although not all of these trucks will participate in Saturday's rally):
On the road since: October 2014
Rack story: One of the newest fashion trucks in Baltimore, Go Gorgeous is owned by Laura Green, who cut her teeth working for Perry Ellis and Sean "Diddy" Combs. In addition to offering merchandise that mostly sells for less than $40, Green sells pieces by designer Monique Leshman, whose work has been worn by Beyonce. Green says her target audience is women ages 18-35. "I like the idea of being mobile," the 43-year-old Woodholme Woods resident said. "It's a new way to service clients."
Go-Go's Retread Threads
On the road since: October 2010
Rack story: Stacey Chambers, who specializes in thrift and vintage clothing, was one of the first in the Baltimore area to launch a fashion truck. She'll celebrate her five-year anniversary this year. "I wanted to be my own ambassador of business and good will," said the 35-year-old Station North resident. "I enjoy being my own boss."
On the road since: August 2013
Rack story: Lyn Boone sells clothing she describes as "contemporary, trendy and a little boho" out of her Urban Pearl fashion truck. Merchandise ranges in price from $29 to $125. "I carry things that are very unique," Boone said. "Things you don't see in the Harford and the Baltimore County area." Like many of the fashion truck owners, Boone will bring her truck to private parties and events. She also connects with customers through "Fashion Tip Tuesday," a video series that she posts on her website.
LaRhonda's Mobile Shoe Boutique
On the road since: April 2014
Rack story: LaRhonda Leigh, 45, has the distinction of operating the city's only fashion truck specializing in shoes. LaRhonda's Mobile Shoe Boutique offers men's and women's options for casual, comfortable dress wear. "I do a little bit of everything — except no athletic wear," she said. Prices for summer shoes range from $15.99 to $38.99. During the winter, when she carries boots, prices can hit $100 per pair. "It's never a dull moment on my bus," said Leigh, who previously sold shoes on eBay and on the sidewalk. "It makes me happy when I make someone walk off of my bus happy. That is my tag line: 'Walk Away Happy.'"
Little White Fashion Truck
On the road since: August 2012
Rack story: Severna Park native Shelley Sarmiento, formerly a co-owner of White House Black Market, now oversees a fleet of three fashion trucks, which operate in Annapolis, Severna Park and Nashville, Tenn. For the past three years, she's been selling low-cost jewelry and clothes as part of the Little White Fashion Truck. Merchandise ranges from $19 to $79. "We have a really established customer base," said the 54-year-old. "It's been great. We don't have to chase. And we don't have to go that far. We've become part of our community. We've really become entrenched."
Tin Lizzy Mobile Boutique
On the road since: April 2014
Rack story: Laura Layton, 26, specializes in selling fair-trade, ethically sourced or locally made merchandise out of her truck. Most of her offerings are handmade in India, Nepal, Guatemala and Uganda. She also carries several Maryland designers and artisans. Clothes range from $15 T-shirts to $95 dresses. The Annapolis resident started the truck because of the lower operating costs. She soon fell in love with the concept. "I quickly learned how great it was to travel all over the state," said Layton, who splits her time between Washington and Baltimore. "I'm all over Maryland. I love to be able to travel to people as opposed to waiting for them to come to me."
On the road since: September 2013
Rack story: Hobo became one of the first U.S. brands to open a mobile fashion store with Mobile Hobo. The company, based in Annapolis, launched its fashion truck by visiting stores on the East Coast that sold their leather goods. Now the truck mostly travels around the Annapolis area. "We are in high gear for a season of festivals and events," said Koren Ray, co-owner of Hobo. "It's a big season for us. We're looking for other opportunities to partner with our retailers. It's a chance for us to get back on the road."
If you go
Boulevard of Chic
Fashion truck rally at Pierce's Park in Baltimore, May 30, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to boulevardofchic.com.