O wning a boutique was never on the radar for Christen Edmonds.
But as an MU student, she began to sell headbands to raise money for a mission trip to Africa.
It started as a pop-up store on campus selling the headbands her grandmother taught her to make, and she ended up selling to boutiques in a number of states.
That left her wanting a storefront of her own.
Brickwood Boutique started in Cape Girardeau in 2016 after a spot opened downtown.
“I didn’t make a business plan, but I did see an opportunity to be in a college town and have a clothing boutique because they really didn’t have any places to shop,” Edmonds said.
Three years later, Edmonds opened the second location at 913 E. Broadway in Columbia.
Brickwood Boutique is a “Bohemian” women’s clothing store. The boutique offers clothing that targets college students as well as young professionals. They sell “athleisure” apparel as well.
Customers are immediately met with booming speakers playing pop music after entering the store where they will find an array of dresses, bottoms, tops, shoes and accessories.
Inspirational and confidence-boosting phrases written in black paint punctuate the white walls. Paper chandeliers hanging from the ceiling add a warm yellow hue.
The original boutique catered to the students from Southeast Missouri State University. Much to Edmond’s surprise, she found herself needing to expand and moved upstairs to gain more square footage.
“I was kind of one of the first to market in Cape as far as boutique-wise,” Edmonds said. “Cape doesn’t have very much, so I think that was really an opportunity for me to grow there.”
She tries to duplicate styles from more expensive brands at a lower price point in her stores.
By polling her audience on Instagram and using the insight of her employees, she decides what styles are on trend and buys the corresponding clothes using two systems.
This includes shopping online through individual brand wholesale websites and an aggregate brand website called “Fashion Go,” as well, going “to market,” a week-long event she attends a few times a year in Dallas and Atlanta.
Edmonds describes it as a learning experience to watch the most recent trends that brands are featuring.
“[The brands] go to market and they set up booths and basically take orders from boutiques all across America,” she said. “I go through the booth and place orders for the current season and future seasons throughout the year.”
Taylor Miller, a junior in textile apparel management at MU, works at Brickwood. She said she loves giving Edmonds her take on what’s popular in the fashion industry.
“We’ll send her things that we like and that we want in the store,” Miller said. “I think it’s really nice that we get to have our input in what’s here.”
Sydney Calhoun has been working at the Columbia location since July. A senior strategic communications major at MU, she runs the marketing for Brickwood’s Instagram page.
“She has been super proactive about what we want to do,” Calhoun said. “If we’re really interested in something, she’s really great about being like ‘OK, here’s what you can do to boost your experience, help you in the long run.’ ”
Running two businesses in different locations isn’t easy, so Edmonds gives employees a great deal of freedom and responsibility. The Columbia store has 10 employees and the Cape Girardeau has six.
“Basically the store is run by all of us, so it’s really great that she can let us be so hands-on because it’s just a great experience for after school,” Calhoun said. “I’m very appreciative.”
Brickwood has also adopted innovative strategies to cater to its customers. The store offers a subscription program called Club Brickwood where customers get 25% off every item for $7.99 a month with the first month free.
“I had read a book on subscriptions and how powerful they are, and if you can incorporate them in any way to your business, to try to,” Edmonds said.
The Brickwood brand has gained a steady following both in person and on social media. To date, the Instagram page for the Columbia location has over 1,400 followers and the Cape Girardeau location has 9,700.
Hayley Ockerhausen was enticed by the decor enough for her to want to shop there.
“I liked their window displays and thought that the clothes that they had looked cute and I thought that the name sounded fun,” Ockerhausen said. “It has a good central location.”
Edmonds is now looking to opening a pop-up in St. Louis. As more people choose to shop local and support small businesses, she wants to continue growing her online presence and bring designer clothes at lower prices when opportunity comes knocking.
“I do believe my brick and mortar will continue to grow, but I also believe online is just going to get bigger and bigger,” she said.