Interview |Fashion on the Move
Brittany Reilly is not your typical boutique owner. For one, her store, Bohemian Groove on the Move, is not enclosed in a shabby chick enclave but in a 1972 silver Airstream Overlander, which is parked on the lot of Elizabeth Avenue Station in The District—West Palm Beach’s trendy new shopping and entertainment hub.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Reilly launched her business nearly two years ago in New York City, but it really took her about a year and a half to renovate the airstream from a family weekend vehicle in need of much TLC into a fabulous shop on wheels.
“When I bought it, the airstream was painted completely black on the outside, so I almost didn’t think it was going to work but I bought it, gutted it and rebuild it!”
I met up with her a year ago at Elizabeth Avenue Station, where she was considering moving her business. I told her then that if she ever made it to the Station, to give me a call. And she did…
Maritza Cosano: Brittany, what made you think of setting up your boutique in an airstream?
Brittany Reilly: Well, I finished college four years ago and studied Fashion Merchandising at LIM, a fashion school in Manhattan. Throughout my time there, I worked as a personal shopper…
MC: You got a job as a personal shopper? That’s every woman’s dream!
BR: Yeah, I know! It was a UK-based company who hired me to work in their personal shopping department. It was really awesome because I got to work with so many types of people: mothers, daughters, celebrities…someone just looking for a birthday outfit or for a special event, things like that. I did it for almost five years. And I was able to also freelance as a fashion stylist. But, after I graduated, I reached a point where I felt I was on a stand still.
MC: Perhaps you didn’t want to work for a major corporation?
BR: Exactly. Being a personal shopper was great because I made my own schedule and got to work with really cool clothing and really cool people. But, I did want to work for myself. So, I saw the idea of food trucks out in California become super popular and it was trickling down into New York. And so that made me think…
MC: If it worked for food, it could work for clothes…
BR: Yes, I thought, why don’t I do that with clothing? That wasn’t being done in New York City at all at that the time, which was around 2016. The problem, I found out, permitting in the City is astronomical. Vending permits are insanely expensive and hard to get. And on top of that, I didn’t know how to turn a vehicle into a shop, but the idea just consumed me.
MC: So, you just had to get this happen…
BR: Yes! I quit my job, bought the trailer and I went into production with the renovation of it, and I started doing this…definitely crazy ride!
MC: How long did it take before you realized that yes, it was a crazy idea, but that it definitely had incredible potential?
BR: Not long. I mean, I didn’t see a lot of people doing this, and still don’t, but once I started doing markets in New York, even my family was overwhelmed about how people just came into the airstream to buy my clothes!
In the middle of our interview, a couple came into the airstream. “Cool necklace!” The young woman said, as she picked up the item and continued to browse through the shop.
MC: How did you put this business together?
BR: I did everything by myself, the renovation, buying the merchandise, researching all the markets, the marketing to get my brand out there and get people to buy my product.
MC: And you started with a brand that was limited, in a way.
BR: Yes, and super complicated. I threw a launch party at a local hostel in my neighborhood and I invited family, friends and people that I’d known from the fashion industry in New York. People came and got to actually see what I had been doing for the past year and a half, and what I’d been posting about.
MC: All the pictures came to life…
BR: Yes, and from that point on, I began to travel and doing numerous markets. In New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut…it was a really fun summer.
MC: And when did you think to take that travel south?
BR: I’ve been coming to Fort Lauderdale, Florida since I was little. And after I was in business for about a year, I found Elizabeth Avenue Station via Instagram. I reached out to Dani [one of the owners] and I asked her about me coming down for the season. The season in New York is different from Florida’s. She told me that they had never done anything like these before, but that they were open to try. She said, “Come on down!” And I told her, “I’ll be there!”
MC: What did your family say about your new adventure?
BR: My father was a bit concerned but he came down with me to see it.
MC: And what was his reaction?
BR: At first, he said that it was cool. “We’ll see how it goes…” The normal parent response. My dad is my only parent too, so he was nervous for me. And, I’m the first business owner in my family, so it’s a huge leap for a 25-year old woman to say, “I’m following my dream, regardless of what anyone says.” So, it’s been a very long, long, long time convincing.
MC: And the fact that coming down here was also a very big move…
BR: Yes, driving the airstream down with all of my belongings, and the stuff for my business was not easy. But, it’s really funny because when I got down here, my dad started seeing everything, including the Grandview Public Market. Even thought he wouldn’t admit it, he knew that I’d made the right decision! [laughing]
MC: Even though it may appear to some that the Warehouse District is a bit secluded right now, is far from it. Everybody in this town has opened up to Chris Villa’s vision of the Grandview Public Market. Elizabeth Avenue Station also took a leap of faith, and you did too. Risk takers typically have the upper hand in the end.
BR: Thank you, I appreciate you saying that. Elizabeth Avenue Station is wonderful, and they never had someone being here permanently during the week, and now I am. People are driving around the street and they see this huge shiny thing and wonder, “What is that?” It definitely is drawing people in!
MC: How many brands do you carry?
BR: I carry around 15 to 20 brands, which is really decent. And between the airstream and my online store, I carry a lot of brands from California, New York City, and the majority of them are made in the USA, which is great! People ask me frequently where I buy, and if my products are made in the USA. And when I tell them yes, they are nicely surprised.
MC: Well, I think people are tired of not getting quality products and everything being made in China!
BR: Yeah, they want 100 percent USA made products, and I think that’s wonderful! I find my merchandise to be beautiful and one of a kind. I mean, you don’t find this merchandise at every brick and mortar shop. And that is the whole purpose of Bohemian Groove—I want people to come in and be like, “Oh, my gosh! This is so cool, I’ve never seen this before; I need to get it!”
MC: And quoting you, “Life is too short to wear boring clothes! [laughing] But, really I can see how people get that vibe when they come in here. When I first came in, I thought: “Wow! I want to live in here!”
BR: [laughing] That’s perhaps the one statement that I get the most! And then they find out that I actually have a bed under here, [gesturing to a large sitting area] and then they are like, “What! That’s perfect.”
MC: If you had the option, would you do it all over again?
BR: Yes, for sure. It definitely has been a crazy adventure. But, I’m a firm believer in that if you want something, you have to go and get it. And within the past few years that I’ve been in business, just like any entrepreneur, you have really, really great days, and then you have some days that you doubt whether what you’re doing is the right thing. But then you realize that you just have to pick yourself up and keep on going, keep on moving… it will work out as long as you let the negative comments go over your head.
MC: You think that’s part of the reason why you’ve been so successful?
BR: Perhaps. A mobile boutique is not a common thing…
MC: And neither was Elizabeth Avenue Station years ago, but it took someone with a vision. We are living in a time when people are stepping away from the norm and seeking their dreams. Either they are re-inventing themselves or they are not letting that negativity influence them. Instead of thinking “What if?” They are thinking, “Why not?”
BR: Yeah, exactly. Right now it is so crucial for people to do what they really want to do. You don’t have to be stuck in a 9 to 5 job being miserable. I saw so many people in New York, in a sense, hating their lives because they are just not doing what they want to do.
MC: And you?
BR: I’m right where I want to be, doing what I want to do. I’m super excited to see where this adventure takes me.
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