As some brick-and-mortar fashion boutiques shutter in response to online sales and shopping habits, Simple & Feminine is bucking the trend.
The women’s wear boutique, owned by Sykesville mother and daughter Alanna and Brianna Volatile, opened Jan. 1 in historic Ellicott City after a pop-up shop succeeded at December’s Midnight Madness event.
“Prior to that we really wanted to be online,” Brianna says.
It’s a logical line of thinking for the 22-year-old: Her blog, The Brunette’s Diary, has more than 30,000 subscribers.
Brianna launched the blog in 2014 while she was studying communications and entrepreneurship at Towson University, and collaborated with the likes of Maybelline and Nordstrom.
“Being in Maryland, you aren’t necessarily in the fashion industry,” she says, noting that she’s wanted a fashion career since age 10. “Starting my blog was a way to dip my toes into the fashion industry.”
Their quick success at Midnight Madness changed her mind about a brick-and-mortar business.
“We set up the pop-up shop and we sold out of everything. That’s when we really [knew] that we needed a retail place,” she says.
A quick search for available property in the region resulted in what they say is the perfect space: a 1,024-square-foot building built by a woman in the 1700s, according to the Volatiles.
“The building has girl power all over it,” Brianna, 22, said with a laugh. “It’s also perfect because we knew we needed a warehouse space because of our” online sales.
At Simple & Feminine, pieces range from $20 to $75 and are mostly in solid colors with a boho-inspired feel. Brands include Free People, MINKPINK, Honey Punch and Lush. The boutique also carries accessories, beauty products and gift items such as candles from Voluspa, which are also sold at Nordstrom and Anthropologie.
Katie Wheeler has been a loyal customer since the shop opened.
“I was really excited when they decided to do this,” the 37-year-old Sykesville resident says.
Wheeler says she loves the selection of clothes — particularly the dresses. “It’s fun to shop there because you are getting something that’s not at a department store. They bring some pop and uniqueness to your wardrobe that you won’t find anywhere else.”
The response to the store has been “amazing,” according to Brianna, who says sales have doubled each month (she declined to discuss the proportion of online versus store sales). While she works full-time in the store, her mother, Alanna, 41, still works in sales at T-Mobile.
From the time the readers’ poll launches in August to the issue’s delivery in December, businesses, nonprofits and readers alike are abuzz in anticipation of who might take home the coveted Best of Howard County title.