Some of you will remember back in the day, when shopping was done at small shops owned locally. Over time these were squeezed out by the “big box” department stores. We have noticed that lately there is a sort of renaissance revival of smaller shops happening here in Kansas City, as well as the other places we travel. It is fueled from the desire to have a more cultural shopping experience that you don’t get at the department store level. This is changing the landscape of shopping for many of the downtown areas of cities across the Midwest.
They Keep Popping Up
Recently we attended a pop-up event in KCK. This style of event is organized by various facilitators who assemble a group of local vendors. Many of those selling have been running their businesses out of their homes and online. With a brick and mortar site, they struggle to build a customer base for repeat sales. These pop-up events give them the opportunity to showcase their goods to a larger group of potential customers over a couple of days.
This event took place at the Legends Shopping Center, so it is obvious that the larger retailers must see the changing dynamic in the shopping realm. Their choice to embrace these new competitors was surely based on the idea that it would create a larger traffic flow for their stores as well. While the event was earmarked for women, we saw plenty of men wandering through the booths. There were even small business owners who focused on food stuffs and non-apparel items.
Crystal and I have enjoyed shopping at boutique clothing shops for quite some time. We find that they offer unique lines of clothing and we are supporting a locally owned business. When we travel we look for these same type of shops in the destinations we visit. Since most of our trips are designed to get us into the downtown districts, we usually can find at least a handful of these type of stores. When we are in our hometown, we have discovered pockets of boutiques that we frequent. One of our favorites is Sincerely, Ellis in the West Bottoms. We have come to know the owner well and that is the kind of experience we find lacking at the big box stores. (You can read more about Sincerely here.)
Boutique shops can often be found occupying buildings that are being re-purposed. Many of these are old manufacturing plants or warehouses. We find them to have more character and charm. It is interesting to see how the owners will reuse the space and breathe new life into it. It also allows us a peek inside of these buildings that would otherwise be shuttered from the public.
Downtown Bonner Springs, Kansas has a small cluster of boutique shops that work together to draw in shoppers. We attended one of their fashion shows where each of the shops supplied a model to showcase some of their fashions. It’s a fun way to see an assortment of their styles in a more social setting. Afterwards, most of the attendees would be heading out to visit these shops for a more in-depth look. These types of events are becoming more commonplace, as boutique shop owners are finding strength in numbers.
Box It Up
Boutique shop owners are beginning to find that city planners and developers have noticed this trend and are working to facilitate its growth. In Tulsa, Oklahoma they have developed an area known as the Boxyard. An assembly of shipping containers have been re-purposed as shops with all the amenities of a brick and mortar. These open up small spaces for growing businesses to get a more permanent home in the city. This unique shopping center attracts many of the same people who are already interested in the rebirth of the urban spaces.
A recent visit to Oklahoma City allowed us a peek into their newest upcoming destination district, Automobile Alley. This area was once home to an assortment of automobile dealerships and supporting auto parts suppliers. After a severe decline, it is beginning its rebirth as a shopping and entertainment district. The installation of a streetcar will allow locals and visitors alike to traverse the area easily. Much like we are seeing along the streetcar line in Kansas City, this Oklahoma city also predicts huge returns on their investment. We took a stroll through the area and found that some shop owners are banking on the success of the plan. The once empty spaces are beginning to fill up with unique and interesting shops.
As the landscape continues to evolve, we expect to see more of these pop-up events across the city. With more and more shoppers seeking out unique styles and a personal experience, boutique shops will continue to flourish. While there is still plenty of space for some big box stores, we are pleased to see that the entrepreneurs who follow their dreams are finding success. After all, this is part of the American Dream and we should all be allowed to pursue it. What are some of your favorite boutique shops? Leave us a note in the comments section below and we will check it out. Be sure to leave your name, so that we can mention you when we visit!