- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
May 23, 2019
Somewhere in between traveling the world sourcing merchandise and watching a wave of store closings that eventually would cost them their jobs, two North Dakota women decided to become business owners.
Fast-forward only two years and their boutique, Leela & Lavender, has grown to five stores and will add a sixth when it opens later this year in Sioux Falls. The boutique has leased space on the first floor of the new Galleria at 69th Street and Western Avenue.
“We both had the same vision of what was lacking, and we saw the decline in retail with stores closing and malls struggling and the increase of online shopping,” co-founder Laura Polanski said.
“We talked a lot about why and what was really lacking in the shopping environment. Shopping wasn’t fun anymore, and we felt we wanted to bring fun back to retail.”
She and co-founder Jill Shea were working at North Dakota-based teen clothing retailer Vanity at the time. They spent 12 years traveling the world from New York to Hong Kong learning the fashion industry and have taken their experience and put it to work creating something new.
“We found it ironic. We shopped the world, and we’re shoppers. We want nice clothes. And we were struggling shopping,” Shea said. “We could find what we wanted, but the prices were unaffordable. And we wanted to be able to find what we wanted and still be moms and have our kids in sports, so we watched for the customers’ wallet and tried to make it easier. We tried to simplify the process and have what she needs at a price she can afford.”
One of their biggest turnoffs was the environment they increasingly found in stores – something they turned around with Leela & Lavender.
“You go in and there’s racks of clothes and the dressing room is dark or dirty, and we felt the environment should feel like a home. You should feel like you’re getting pampered,” Polanski said.
“Our stores have a fireplace. They have a bar. They have oversized fitting rooms and seating areas. We have flat-screen TVs, so the husband or kids can wait for their shopper. All these things were really important to us.”
Leela & Lavender started in Fargo in 2017 and has added other stores in North Dakota and Minnesota.
“We’re used to a lot of stores,” Polanski said. “I know it sounds fast to most people, but we’re used to buying for a lot of stores. When we built the business plan, we wanted one store a year for the first five years. And with the business taking off, we started going a little quicker than planned.”
Once the Sioux Falls store opens, they might take a breather for a bit.
“We didn’t want to get too big too fast and disappoint people,” Shea said. “We knew we needed proper inventory levels, and I feel like we needed proof of concept in the stores to get the business off the ground. I’d say in the next one to two years we’ll be ready to focus more on web.”
Brands include Free People, Paige, Joe’s Denim, Mother Denim, Kut from the Kloth and Blink NYC.
“We built a merchandise pyramid,” Polanski said. “We want our customer to be able to shop in a way that she can find investment pieces and also some trendy items she doesn’t want to pay a lot for. Part of it is that fast-fashion is starting to turn people off. They’re buying things and throwing it away. People want to buy things they can have for a little while, and I think even teens are starting to look at that more closely.”
They liked the 3,000-square-foot space at The Galleria for a variety of reasons, including their neighboring tenants, which include gastropub Tavern 180, Amazing Lash Studio and ARTisan Skin and Laser Center.
“We loved that it wasn’t mall-based,” Pulanski said. “Not that the mall is bad, but we feel being in a separate location allows our customer to get in and out really easily, and we loved some of the other tenants.”
They plan to hire a manager, assistant manager and up to 15 part-time employees. Applicants can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their lease leaves about 2,000 square feet open at the Galleria, said Raquel Blount of Lloyd Cos., who represents the property.
“Leela & Lavender is exactly the sort of business we hoped would join the mix at The Galleria,” she said. “The shopping environment they’re going to provide is such a strong complement to everything else you’ll be able to experience here. We’re excited to have such forward-looking retail leaders come to Sioux Falls.”
Two retail veterans took what they realized was lacking in shopping and turned it into a new business that’s growing fast. Get ready to welcome Leela & Lavender boutique to Sioux Falls.