Mother-Daughter duo open boutique for women of all ages

To those who have been mourning the loss of Pitaya and its boutique-finds, look no farther than just across the street.

Apricot Lane Boutique, a family-run clothing chain with locations in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, Ill., will open its fourth location in Illinois on the corner of Green and Wright streets in place of Follett’s Bookstore, which closed in May.

The boutique will hold its grand opening Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Mayor Don Gerard will be the guest ribbon cutter upon request of the Apricot Lane owners.

Gerard said he is excited about the opening of this boutique because it will help to create a “micro-urban atmosphere on campus” for the students and Champaign-Urbana community.

The boutique, featured in People StyleWatch, USA Today and the Today Show, will showcase “trendy,” “fashionable” and “unique” clothing from upcoming designers based in the Los Angeles area, said co-owner Jena Green, who operates the boutique chain with her mother, Renee Dixon.

With a combined background in business, marketing and sales, Green and Dixon left the workplace and joined together to open Apricot Lane stores supported by the Christian franchise company Country Visions.

“It started as a mother-daughter thing,” said co-owner Dixon. “We’ve had just an overwhelming response to our merchandise, and it just took off. (But) I think after this one, we’re going to take a little break,” Dixon laughed.

Alhough working as a mother-daughter duo sometimes presents challenges, Green said they are a great team overall.

“If you have a fight at home, you have to know that you can’t bring it to work and vice versa,” Green said. “It’s fun and complicated, but I would say we work well together.”

With 123 individual Apricot Lane stores opened nationwide, and 30-40 planned to open every year, Green and Dixon said their emphasis on customer service and handpicked selection make their stores unique.

“We really emphasize customer service because we realize that some of our things can be too trendy or maybe somebody doesn’t know how to wear them,” Dixon said. “So the staff that we’ve hired … are willing to really assist the customer in putting together an outfit and accessorizing as well. There’s something for everyone, moms and daughters.”

Their buying philosophy is a defining characteristic of their store. New arrivals come in each day, with only six of each item purchased for the sake of maintaining a “boutique feel” and to keep the store current, Green said.

“We bring everything in from the Los Angeles fashion district, so it’s really trendy and really cutting-edge. So people have to be really up on their style,” she said. “But we also have things that people that don’t follow trends would still come in (and buy).”

While Apricot Lane features current fashion, it also has clothing that is “going to be seen next year,” said Lindsey Flessner, manager of Apricot Lane and University alumna.

“Everyone gets a first-hand look at it,” Flessner said. “(We hope to bring) products you don’t see anywhere else in Champaign.”

The boutique offers a variety of designs and clothing styles for girls in their teens to women in their 50s. Though trends may change frequently, the price range remains consistent and affordable. Prices range from $9 for a pair of earrings to $68 for a dress.

“Our price point is really nice,” Green said. “We’re right smack dab in the middle.”

After three years of success from their other stores, Green and Dixon hope to cater to the needs of the Champaign-Urbana customers.

“We just felt it was a no-brainer … to come to U of I,” Dixon said. “We carry very affordable, trendy fashions, which are really great for a college campus area.”

The first 30 shoppers to spend more than $200 on Thursday will receive a VIP gift bag valued at $75, including a gold-spiked bracelet and Illini boot socks. The grand-opening celebration will continue through Sunday, Sept. 22, with daily discounts and giveaway raffles. The store will be open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Stephanie can be reached at [email protected]