Lu Roo & Co is a family affair, and these women are more than happy to tell you all about it. Even their name tells the story: of Lu (Lugene), the matriarch of the family and the shop’s inspiration; Roo (the childhood nickname of granddaughter Stephani) who grew up in the family bridal shop business and studied fashion merchandising; and Co (Colette), who took a chance on a dream of starting a boutique with her daughter.
With that background, it sounds like they were set up for success — but opening a brick-and-mortar boutique amidst a retail recession and a global crisis is hardly a sure bet. Hey Pumpkin spoke with Lu Roo & Co about their path to opening a thriving physical and online boutique, as well as what they wish they’d known before they got started.
HP: What does the journey of Lu Roo & Co look like? Did you always know that you wanted to open a brick-and-mortar fashion boutique?
LRC: It was truly an unplanned adventure! We have a bridal store in our town of Oskaloosa, and many stores around us were closing, making finding affordable fashion impossible for locals. We started with maybe 10 items in a tiny corner of our store, and within 6 months we had grown to half of our main storefront.
Within a year, one entire level of our store was all boutique. Then we started online sales and our “let’s give it a try” turned into more than our wildest dreams could ever have imagined! With the family having a background in fashion through our Bridal Store and Stephani having a degree in fashion merchandising, it was an easy dream to chase — clothing has always been our lifelong love!
HP: What’s it like to visit your shop? What kind of experience do you hope that customers will enjoy?
LRC: We are a true small town, family-friendly, love-everyone shop! We love meeting new customers, seeing our wonderful regulars, and making those one-on-one connections that have also blossomed into wonderful friendships! Our biggest hope is to create a space where all women feel confident, love the options we give them, and find budget-friendly pieces that won’t break the bank! Our motto is “Look good, feel good, do good!”
HP: What’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of running your own business? What about a challenge you didn’t expect?
LRC: The most fulfilling aspect to us is the fact we are a mother/daughter duo working side by side and making our dreams a reality! Getting to work together day in and day out is such a privilege we are thankful for, and we never take for granted the special bond it brings between us.
Another wonderful aspect of owning our own business is the flexibility of making it a true family operation — the kids help, and so does Stephani’s husband. It’s always all-hands-in, and to see us all work together to make our business grow is the greatest feeling to our hearts. The lifelong lessons we are able to show the kids about hard work and hustle are ones I truly believe will stay with them forever.
As for a challenge we didn’t expect — growth would have to be at the top of the list. We have steadily continued to grow and learn. Our growth happened so quickly, turning into something we never imagined, and to see it continue even through some big roadblocks is a very humbling feeling.
HP: What inspires you? How do you select the items for your shop?
LRC: We try to stay true to our own fashion sense. Picking pieces we love but also keeping our eyes peeled for items we know our customers will love also. We are adventurous with trying new trends and love to mix classic with trendy to find the perfect pieces! We select items at vendor markets in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, and Chicago. We also are able to shop our favorite manufacturers online and sales reps even come to our store and we place orders. It is such a fun experience!
HP: What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you before starting your business?
LRC: I wish we would have been pushed to try this dream sooner. I remember being so nervous thinking “will this work?” Yet we hustled, started from the bottom, and put in a ton of work to get things going steady. And I would do it all over again — just sooner!!