Not many girls can say that they that they found their favorite clothing stores thanks to their grandmother. But I can. That is because our family's matriarch is impossibly chic and has an effortlessly cool sense of style. And she's quick to snuff out the best places (and people!) to shop from.
So it was only natural that after moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 2007, she introduced me to this little clothing boutique that quickly became one of my favorite places to shop, frock, and the passionate mother-daughter duo that own and operate the store together. Now anytime I'm in town visiting, a stop at their store to see what wonderful things they have in store is a must-do.
Over the years, the many items I've purchased from the store have become some of my most trusted, and many are earned rave reviews here on shetrusts. In an effort to give a heartfelt "thank you" for being a constant place that I can always trust to find quality items, a Spotlight feature is in order.
Recently, frock owner Betsy Bradfield (who runs the shop alongside her daughter, Jenny Lane) was kind enough to answer a few of my questions to share with the shetrusts readers. Here, she talks about what led her to start a fashion boutique business, how she balances relationships/family/work, her favorite places in Asheville to eat and drink, and of course, her top fashion picks she trusts to help keep her moving and grooving.
A shetrusts Q+A with frock founder Betsy Bradfield:
A few basics about yourselves: where are you from originally and where did you grow up? Was fashion a part of your lives as a child?
Both Jenny [daughter and frock partner-in-crime) and I were born in Asheville, following our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Jen has a little yankee in her though, from her dad's side of the family. Fashion was not a part of my life as I grew up more of a tomboy/hippie in the 70s. But, when Jen was old enough to open her dresser drawers, she would empty all of her clothes out on the floor and change outfits a few times a day. It drove me crazy, but now she always changes the mannequins at frock, and does a far better job than I do.
What was the initial inspiration for Frock? How long was it from that point until you first opened your doors? Also, your location on Battery Park Avenue in downtown Asheville could not be more perfect. Did you have that location in mind when you first began planning your store? How did that arrangement come about?
The initial inspiration for frock came about in the fall of 2007 as I was designing and making jewelry and selling it at my friend Constance's boutique in downtown Asheville. I worked for her at her store when she needed extra help and it dawned on me one day that I could sell my jewelry and other things if I got into retail myself. I was inspired to carefully choose clothes and accessories that appealed to my aesthetic because, at the time, Asheville didn't have what I envisioned as the perfect little boutique. Constance became my mentor as soon as I told her I planned to open my own store. She's the one who told me about everything from buying at the apparel markets to ordering store supplies and fixtures. She was absolutely integral in the choice I made for the location of frock and because of her I avoided a costly mistake, thinking I was going to open on Biltmore Avenue. By word of mouth, she knew the location formerly known as Chicago High Fashions on Battery Park was coming up for lease, and I was able to sign a lease on it.
Before I could move in, we had three months of clean up and renovations to the dilapidated space, but I saw the potential and it kept me encouraged. Meanwhile, I had a metal worker constructing racks as I was buying and having shipped to my house mannequins, hangers, furnishings and most importantly the clothes I bought that January in NYC. It piled up in my extra room for weeks until the big move downtown. We officially opened April 30, 2008!
I’m a big believer in the idea that “all roads lead to Rome”, meaning that even the most minute life experiences eventually come together to form a bigger picture or assist in achieving a larger endeavor. What was your professional background prior to opening Frock? Do you feel that it lends itself well to owning and operating a boutique?
I had my own sewing and design business for homes, fabricating everything from pillows and duvet covers to covered cornice boards for about 12 years. I've always been visually inspired to create environments that are welcoming by including art work that speaks to me, music that I love, and since I've been a fabricaholic all of my life thanks to my grandmother, Hopie, everything has to feel as good as it looks.
I took a local business course and created a business plan as soon as the name "frock" came to me, echoing my grandfather's use of the word to refer to the dresses I wore. Everything I loved could be brought together under this one idea called frock.
What are your favorite products that you carry at frock?
Our favorite things to carry at frock are always in the next delivery! We can hardly wait for the fall cashmere to arrive and no sooner have we hung it on the racks and worn some ourselves, we are excited about the beautiful floral kimono wraps on their way a couple of weeks later. We buy 3-6 months ahead of the seasons, so there is only gratification when it arrives. Jewelry is a love of both Jenny and me, and we are constantly trying to find new lines that fit with our store. Because we bring different perspectives based on our ages, there's always something that will appeal to a wide spectrum of customers. Sometimes she likes chunky and I like delicate, and then the next time we buy, it's reversed. One of our mainstays, Michael Stars, has proven over and over that it is an enduring brand and one of our best sellers. We feel like anything that goes with denim or leggings, and feels good, will make people happy.
What do you look for in items when curating the store's selection?
As we choose what to sell at frock, we stress American-made brands as much as possible. Companies that do what they say and are flexible in trading styles out if something doesn't work for us are also crucial. A rep for a line can be so very helpful, and building those relationships takes time and trust that after six years we feel we have established.
What have you found to be your “tools” in balancing work, friends, family and personal time? Do you find it difficult to find balance it all?
Our tools for balancing work, friends, family have evolved over time. We keep different hours to try to keep work separate from our mother/daughter relationship. Whichever one of us is working is queen for the day, and we both respect that, and encourage switching things up to make the store feel fresh. If I like the candle somewhere other than where Jen does, I move it, then she moves it back! We both have plenty of free time away from work and consider ourselves very lucky.
Describe what a typical day is for you:
A typical day begins with a little housekeeping, then going online to check balances at the bank and credit card company, updating Qwik Books, making sure back stock items get put out to replace what sold, reordering our staple items like Nikibiki camisoles, Hanky Panky underwear, Coobie bras, M Rena items, MantraBand bracelets and other jewelry, and then, of course, being friendly to the people who come in the door.
What are some of your other personal interests and hobbies? And what do you like to do when you have a day to yourself?
My other interests and hobbies are working on the house and yard, hiking, biking, Pilates, learning to play guitar, knitting, seeing my family and friends, (and my sweetie, Ken), reading and generally just seeing what each day brings my way. When I have a whole day to myself, sometimes I do absolutely nothing but chill at my house.
Where your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in Asheville?
What are the top five things (in life and in fashion!) that you cannot live without?
The top five things I cannot live without are a sense of humor, good books, my super comfy bed, love of my family and being creative.
And my top five fashion items I cannot live without are jeans, leggings, boots, scarves and good underwear. I can't limit it to five... soft sweaters, great jewelry, sexy tees and tanks, wrist warmers, and My Saint My Hero Benedictine bracelets layered up with other bangles.
To stay up-to-date on frock's latest inventory, follow them on their Facebook page!