LOCK HAVEN – Ashley Garbrick knew there were dangers.
But dropping out of college in the midst of a pandemic to pursue her dreams was a risk she felt she had to take.
And that risk has paid off. The owner of Blonde Boutique, originally on Grove Street in downtown Lock Haven, is already at 125 E. Main St. plans to have a grand opening on Saturday, January 28 to move to a larger location at
Doors open at 10am with specials, deals and giveaways available to shoppers.
For Ashley, life is anew: she celebrated her one-year anniversary as a business owner in November 2021 after opening the doors of her boutique.
“It’s really exciting because when I was a kid there wasn’t a lot going on downtown, and there weren’t a lot of shops that attracted me.” Ashley said. “I feel optimistic because Lock Haven is almost like a whole new city at this point, and I can’t wait to see how it grows and changes for the better.”
Before venturing into entrepreneurship, Ashley created content on social media platforms, the first of which was her own YouTube channel, where she posted videos about her daily life and other topics that interested her. The channel’s audience was captivated by her lifestyle vlogs and beauty tutorials, which she posted regularly. Ashley’s YouTube channel quickly gained a large following, and due to the number of followers she attracted, she started earning from YouTube even after finishing high school.
Her YouTube following eventually led to her other social media accounts, which would later benefit her as a small business owner.
Garbrick, who grew up in the Mill Hall area, said she felt she had a knack for retail even as a teenager.
In the years before she graduated from high school, she became known for selling high-end clothing and accessories on Facebook Marketplace. At 16, she began working part-time at the former Co2 The Unique Boutique, where she gained valuable experience in retail.
Majoring in business and marketing management at Lock Haven University felt like a good fit for Garbrick, given her familiarity with social media marketing.
Meanwhile “stop it” During the phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Garbrick realized that he was not particularly enthusiastic about promoting other companies on social media platforms; She felt that if she was going to promote a business, it should be her own.
However, despite the fact that it was a risky time to start a business, Ashley came up with a plan and began looking for a location.
Ashley recently sat down with The Express for an interview:
Did the COVID-19 restrictions influence your decision about taking a risk and opening your own brick-and-mortar store?
“I would say the shutdowns inspired me to pursue an entrepreneurial venture in a weird way because I was stuck at home with nothing to do and I was spending more time scrolling through social media than usual. Then my employer announced they were closing their business, so I had more time on my hands to do some soul searching.
“During that time, the more I saw other people successfully starting their own businesses on social media, the more compelled I was to give it a shot. Seeing other people succeed in their businesses was inspiring, and it inspired me to do the same. It felt like being able to succeed, especially since I had a background in sales and had already built a following on social media, which I could use to promote the business.
“While a full-time student at Lock Haven University during the shutdown, I majored in business and marketing management. When I started tossing around the idea of opening my own boutique, I came to the conclusion that school wasn’t right for me at the time; I didn’t want to use social media to promote someone else’s business and dreams … I wanted to promote my own business.”
Were you nervous about opening a business during this time of uncertainty and instability in our economy?
“Not really, because when I decided what I wanted to do, downtown Lock Haven was already booming because of the push to support small businesses, and people in this community to shop locally instead of supporting big box stores. had started I noticed that all the downtown businesses, new and old, really started to thrive as people spent more time attending events or shopping. Seeing what seemed like a whole new business district in Lock Haven inspired me to take the risk and open my own shop.”
What makes a blonde boutique unique?
“I think my niche is finding very unique clothes and accessories. I guess you could say I’m picky about the merchandise I sell because I like to offer styles that aren’t available anywhere else. My goal is to offer the most current, on-trend styles, even before they become popular in some cases.”
Despite high levels of unemployment due to COVID-19, would you say you have had a positive impact on our community by adding to Lock Haven’s downtown shopping district?
“Yes, but it wasn’t just me and my boutique; The fallout from COVID-19 affected all businesses in downtown Lock Haven, and small businesses seem to have suffered the most. I think people in our community wanted to keep the downtown retailers from closing their doors, so they started shopping locally more often to support them. Now there are more shops to choose from, so what started out as a bad situation for business owners has actually turned out to be a boon for downtown Lock Haven.”
Has the pandemic affected your ability to purchase inventory and sustain your business?
“In the beginning, it was rough. I would place an order through one of my vendors, and the order, which was supposed to arrive in 5 business days, would not actually be delivered for another 3 weeks. In order to have enough inventory in my boutique, I needed to come up with a plan to stock the shelves. My strategy was to order on a regular basis, so basically I had to start contacting the vendors I buy from at least twice a week, knowing that the order wouldn’t arrive for about 3 weeks. I also needed to plan ahead if I wanted to carry seasonal items. Before I opened the boutique in November 2021, I knew I had some items available that would make great Christmas gifts, so almost immediately after signing the lease in October of that year, I placed an order for those items. With no way of knowing exactly when that order would arrive, I actually placed it before I had my boutique set up and ready for customers.”
How has your business evolved over the past year?
“One thing that has changed at the boutique is that I’ve expanded my inventory to include more gift items than I originally planned to offer. I’ve also added a broader selection of clothing and accessories so there’s something for everyone. wanted to do that appeals to a wide range of clothing choices.”
Would you say there’s a sense of camaraderie between you and the other businesses that have opened in downtown Lock Haven?
“Yes absolutely. We all focus more on community than competition. I believe we can all be successful, and there is plenty of business to go around. We all offer different variations of clothing and gifts, which is beneficial for downtown because there are now more options that appeal to everyone regardless of what they’re shopping for.”
Can you tell our readers what the future holds for Blonde Boutique?
“I am excited to expand my boutique to include a wider range of inventory, so I have plans to relocate the store to a larger space on East Main Street. In the new space, I will be able to offer a greater selection to choose from and hope to eventually add more members to our sales team.”
Ashley’s store is open Monday through Friday until 5pm and Saturday until 3pm. Her store also has a web site at www.blondeboutique.net