Owner, Circular Boutique
6th Avenue between C Street and D Street
How long has Circular been in business?
Amazingly, we’ve been open for 10 years!
What inspired you to start Circular?
Initially, I was interested in providing an eco-friendly option for Anchorage shoppers. I offered clothing for men, women and children, furnishings, and home décor, etc. When that message fell flat, I realized I would have to refocus on timeless and high quality products that didn’t contribute to the landfills and that helped people live a safer and healthier life.
What was your major in school and how did it help you with owning Circular?
My major in school was English. That helped me in my first business, Wordsmith, through which I provided a variety of writing services to private, corporate and governmental entities. My experience operating that business for 30 years prepared me for owning and operating another business, although retail was completely foreign to me.
What has been the biggest challenge in establishing your business?
This is tough. I would probably say the biggest challenge is getting people through my door so my brand became known. Advertising is a hit-or-miss endeavor and expensive. Word-of-mouth has been the surest way to gain customers, but it is limited. And often people hear something about the store—such as the cost of the products we carry—and this makes them scared to stop in and take a look (although we carry a variety of price points). This remains a difficult challenge for me to this day.
Owning a boutique is so much more than selecting beautiful clothing and product to sell. For example, so much of buying goes back to math/budgeting/inventory planning and control. Have you always been business minded or is it something you developed and continue to learn?
My father owned his own businesses so it was my environment growing up. He had both a home-operated business (Muzak) and a storefront (an electronics store). I realized fairly early on that it was much more rewarding and comfortable for me to be my own boss. A friend who also owned a business and I used to joke that we were “certifiably unemployable” because it was so difficult to not be the one making decisions!
Describe Circular's style aesthetic:
I would say we are a purveyor of beautifully designed and thoughtfully curated fashion and products. We look for unique and timeless fashion and premium products that enhance your life.
Describe a typical day at market:
It’s BUSY!!!! I create a very strict schedule when I go to market, with a little time left open for exploration. Some of the most loved brands in the store were found by just wandering through showrooms. I begin at around 9:00 am and finish about 6 pm each day with appointments every 15-30 minutes (depending on how much time I need with a brand). It’s exhausting, but fun.
What is your favorite season to shop for and how do you get trend forecasting inspiration?
My favorite season is everyone’s favorite season—Fall. I get ready for buying by watching runway shows from the various Fashion Weeks around the world and reviewing the collections of major design houses (often smaller design houses will take their cues from the large design houses, so I am able to find similar styles at much lower prices). This provides information on color palettes, silhouettes, and aesthetics that will be forefront in most designers’ collections. Several of my designers show at Fashion Weeks, so I’m aware of pieces I find interesting before I go to Market.
What are ways you have seen growth as a business owner over the years?
When I first opened Circular, I bought what I liked rather than what others found appealing, primarily because I just didn’t know yet what they wanted! This wasn’t necessarily a total misstep, but over time I learned what my customers like, what is right for their lifestyles, and what price points are comfortable for them. I am also more careful about my buying; I often have to turn away from things that I love because they just won’t sell in Anchorage.
How do you set yourself apart from other boutiques and how important was researching your boutiques market/demographic?
On our sign you will see “love your choices” which guides us in our sales approach. Circular prides itself on NEVER forcing a sale or encouraging someone to buy something if they’re unsure. Our customer service is strong, we are honest, and we stand behind our products. The last thing I want is for someone to regret buying something from Circular.
In terms of researching our market/demographic, I have to admit that we didn’t! I have lived my entire life of 62 years in Alaska and I think I have a fairly good feel for what people here want. Although I’m sure almost everyone will say that I can “get away with” wearing things that are different from the “norm”, I understand what it is to LIVE here. Although that doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel amazing!
Circular is much more than beautiful clothing and accessories - what services and products do you offer that people might not know about when stopping at your boutique?
Thanks for this question. This goes back to us getting out the word about the store. We offer wish lists (so you get what you want when people shop for you), gift cards, styling services, closet revamps, private parties in the store, and personal shopping.
For someone making their initial visit to Circular, what are some labels / products you suggest they must check out?
There are a few labels and products that are my favorites. I always want people to at least take a look at Maison Scotch, the female division of Dutch brand Scotch and Soda, which boasts a head designer from Anchorage, Tracy Reese and Rachel Zoe, both American designers with a definite point of view, Alexis Bittar jewelry because it’s amazing, and Little Barn Apothecary, which was founded and is operated by two amazing partners who have created a premium effective product.
You have always been an inspiration to me in so many ways thanks to your genuine kind heart, stunning style, and your deep commitment to our environment. What are some things Circular does to be as green and eco-conscious as possible?
I’ll mention Little Barn Apothecary again. All of these amazing products are vegan and organic—as well as being the BEST that I’ve used on my skin! I also carry Agent Nateur deodorant for men and women, which is the highest ranking natural deodorant in terms of effectiveness, and PRITINYC, an eco nail polish that has staying power and comes in great colors (many large design houses commission colors for their runway shows from PRITI).
The clothing I carry is high quality and will last. Some customers resell their pieces, while others keep them for many years, but either way they are not ending up in a landfill. And lastly, we recycle literally EVERYTHING we can in the store. Every scrap of paper. Every coffee sleeve. Every toilet roll :). Every bit of cardboard. You get the picture. I’m lucky to have curbside recycling in my neighborhood, so I take the recycling home from the store each week. I worked with the 5th Avenue Mall to get cardboard recycling and now they have TWO cardboard bins and only one garbage bin to service the Mall.
What advice would you give to someone interested in owning a boutique and buying that you wish someone gave to you?
I would advise that anyone considering owning a boutique define what it is they plan to provide that is DIFFERENT from what others provide. Even if the most unique aspect of your business is your personality, you need to know what you will present to the public that makes them want to shop with you.
Ask yourself WHY you are opening a boutique. Are you providing a different product? A different experience? Filling a niche that you know exists? You love fashion and want to share that love? Know what it is that drives you.
Be sure you’re aware of ALL of your costs (rent, utilities, product, shipping, etc.) and what your income will need to be to cover those each month. Try to start with at least 3-6 months of funding so you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable position with your landlord or vendors.
What are your never leave the house essentials?
I HAVE to have lipstick. My natural lip color is super red lip and so I always have a nude lipstick in my purse to tone it down. And my phone because I have so much information in it!
What five items do you believe every woman should have in her closet?
A great pair of black pants, a GOOD black blouse (I must have at least 6 but my new favorite is from L’Agence!), a GOOD white/ivory blouse (again, I have at least 6), a chic medium weight coat (mine is a black straight coat with notched collar), and a truly unique piece that screams YOU! Basics are necessary, but having something that is really different and that speaks to your soul is a must in my mind.
What is your mantra?
Love your choices! Really, that’s all life boils down to and it is what directs your path. Choose with your heart.