Fashion to-go

Mobile clothing store, boutique trend hits Oklahoma

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Tara McKinnon of Gypsy Sol Mobile Boutique travels from Stillwater along with fellow fashion truck owners to festivals, including the Kirkpatrick Festival last Saturday in Yukon.  (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood)

By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – Food trucks are all the rage, but now consumers can have another mobile experience with travelling fashion boutiques or fashion trucks.

Business Insider Magazine reported there were at least 500 fashion trucks on the road in the U.S. in 2014. The East and West coasts were the early pioneers of this recent trend, but it has hit Yukon’s festivals and outdoor events.

Dallas Jo Zaloudek Vinson of 405 Mobile Boutique and other mobile fashion truck owners greeted customers at the Kirkpatrick Festival in Yukon last weekend.

Vinson’s boutique-on-the-go is her full-time job. Before becoming a mobile retailer, her merchandise was online only and she used to set up her clothing in a booth at festivals. Since she went mobile, she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s fun. Meeting people, going places, and doing private shopping parties. It definitely helps online sales, and getting the word out about my store. I think all jobs are hard work, but if you love what you do it’s more fun than work. With mobile, you have traveling expenses, but if I had a brick and mortar (B&M) I would have a lease on a building,” Vinson said.

Some fashion truck owners have a store and for others it’s a goal, but everyone seems to have an online presence for e-shoppers.

Makayla Mattingly of The Struggle Bus Art & Clothing plans to have a store soon. She started out selling art and t-shirts in college for extra money. Setting up and breaking down a booth was time consuming and exhausting. A bus was the perfect option. The income hasn’t been too bad either.

“I began doing this as a side income while I was a high school English teacher while aspiring to do this full time. I was able to manage both with holidays, weekends, and summers off which was absolutely great to help build my small business for several years. So, this year I took the leap of doing The Struggle Bus full time and put all my time and passion into it daily. It’s not saying much for the state of Oklahoma because teachers are drastically underpaid, but I can say with confidence I am making more than I did teaching. I think every mobile boutique is different with income as it depends on their products and merchandise along with exposure.”

Heather Parsons of the Cargo Room Mobile Boutique said events drive their income in this business, and a few other factors.

“Your income earned varies depending on multiple factors: the number of events booked per year, the type of events booked per year, inventory levels, and the biggest factor that unfortunately is out of our control…the weather!” she said.

Parsons’ business has grown since she started in 2014, to the point that she opened a “showroom” last year, but she is not coming off the road any time soon.

“This is not your typical retail storefront,” Parsons explained. “Instead we have structured this location as a Showroom meaning it functions on a “by appointment” basis. Being a mobile business, we needed to have the flexibility to be on the road when needed, therefore the Showroom was the perfect arrangement for our business. I think what makes mobile boutiques stand out is that we have the opportunities to go where the people go. Not only is it a convenience factor, but it always is a unique and intimate shopping experience.”

The variety of merchandise can be different than the clothes offered at department stores and brick and mortar boutiques. Mattingly sells her own produced work.

“All our products are actually locally created and locally designed by me. We want the concept to be just that, local. It’s a small business and it’s all made by a small business owner,” she said.

Vinson said every boutique is unique.

“We are all different in what we carry,” she said. “I have custom embroidery along with clothing and accessories. I range my items from baby to adult. So, a little something for everyone.”

All three entrepreneurs said they love meeting people, including other fashion truck owners and seeing different places.

Parsons said she had made lasting friendships.

“I love having the opportunities to meet so many great people. I have built so many great friendships over the years, all because they first stopped in to my trailer!”

Mattingly said she loves the freedom.

“We love being able to pick where we go and not be stationery. We can always explore somewhere new, travel, and meet new people. We get to drive the Struggle Bus for others to enjoy looking at, shopping in, and hanging out,” she said.

There can be some downsides to the mobile business. Mattingly said people should be aware of the commitment they’re making.

“With being on the road so much this eliminates time with family and friends which can make it challenging. The travel and festivals are very time consuming to prepare beforehand, during, and after…the majority of the time on the weekends. Managing a small business is more than a full-time job, as any small business owners know it’s not just 40 hours a week and your off. You are always putting time into your art, T-shirt’s, designs, preparations for shows, entering new shows, keeping up with online shop, social media, networking, and running the business,” she said.

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