Are Howard County customers willing to spend $193 for Kate Spade sunglasses, $85 for a cream-colored elbow-length Henley-style T-shirt from Theory, $389 for a sleeveless, V-necked, yellow-flowered Rebecca Taylor dress?
Lindsay Buscher, owner of Urban Chic clothing boutiques in Georgetown and Fulton, has bet her career that the answer is yes.
Buscher seemed on course for a career in the public sector, majoring in political science at Salisbury University and earning a master's degree in public administration from the University of Baltimore. But her true interest was fashion.
"All I ever wanted to do was go to fashion shows," she said.
It was her husband, Chris Buscher, who urged her to follow her heart, she said.
"She always loved clothes, so I told her she had to turn her habit into a profit," said her husband, who was repairing lights in the Fulton store on a recent day while keeping track of the couple's 8-month-old daughter, Emerson Rose.
Chris Buscher, who said he doesn't care about fashion, was wearing Chip and Pepper jeans and a T-shirt from a company called Junk Food. His wife was wearing 7 for All Mankind jeans and a cap-sleeved, beige Rebecca Taylor eyelet peasant blouse. Emerson Rose was not wearing designer clothes - yet.
Lindsay Buscher opened her first Urban Chic in Georgetown in February 2004. The second location, in Fulton, opened in November 2005. And things continue to move quickly.
Sometime next month, an Urban Chic Web site (www.urbanchiconline.com) will be launched. It will sell everything that is in the stores, as well as shoes, Lindsay Buscher said. In the fall, men's and children's clothing will be added, she said.
A third Urban Chic location is planned, although she refused to reveal details. All she would say is that it would be in Maryland and be about 3,000 square feet, compared with about 2,000 square feet for the existing stores.
Sitting on a leather couch in the Fulton store, Lindsay Buscher said she is finally able to go to those fashion shows she always dreamed about. She travels to New York five times a year and to Los Angeles once a year to stock her stores.
She noted that the Georgetown and Fulton locations carry slightly different merchandise. In Georgetown, she said, customers spend more money and are more open to designers they don't know.
"We try to keep to the bigger names that people know in this store," she said about Fulton. "In D.C., we carry names like Tracy Reese and Catherine Malandrino, higher price points."
In Fulton, she said, the focus is on jeans and T-shirts. Some of the more popular brands are 7 for All Mankind, Chip and Pepper, Theory and Juicy Couture. "Here, we have a big need for great denim," she said. "It's mostly young, hip moms."
That customer base is growing as Fulton continues to add upscale homes and shops. Still, Buscher said she encounters customers who may not be used to spending $150 on a pair of jeans, or more than $300 on a top.
Why should someone spend $67 on a white Susana Monaco tank top when they can get a tank top for a third of that at Gap? "This is the most amazing fabric," Buscher said, touching the shirt. "It looks great on everyone."
She said designer clothes last much longer and fit better than the items sold in chain stores. And, at least in Georgetown, she has some high-profile customers who apparently agree with her, including President Bush's daughters, Barbara and Jenna, as well as Nicole Kidman and Danielle Steele.
Both stores are family affairs. Lindsay Buscher's sister, Courtney Cannata, manages the Georgetown store and helps buy the merchandise. Her other sister, Tiffany Cannata, works at both stores. Chris Buscher, a graphic arts major at Salisbury who earned an MBA from Phoenix University, handles the business side. And his father, David Buscher, a prominent local developer, is "the ... one that kind of got us going," Lindsay Buscher said.