A hub for trendy women of all ages, Apricot Lane offers style as inimitable as the mother-daughter team who brought it to Peoria.
Renee Dixon and her daughter, Jena Green, often joked about opening a boutique together, but never thought they would actually see it through. But when a well-timed email from the Apricot Lane franchise crossed their paths, the mother-daughter team took the idea to heart. Both were ready to leave their jobs, and a career change seemed to loom as a possibility. “I was ready for something different and new,” says Dixon, “and [Jena] was ready to find her niche.” After paying a visit to an Apricot Lane location in Springfield, Dixon and Green decided to take the plunge.
Soon, the women were immersed in a whirlwind of training manuals, interviews with the franchise president, and a company trip to California to learn more about the buying process. Upon returning from the Golden State, boxes of clothes started arriving at Dixon’s house, and remodeling began on their retail space at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie. Dixon explains that they went from initial research to the store opening in a span of just four months, and all the while, Green was still working another job.
Joining the two co-owners, Dixon’s other daughter, Ashley, contributes to the business as a sales associate, while her husband, Rod, crunches the numbers. As general manager of Bob Lindsay Honda during the day, he assists the family business on Sundays and some evenings. He also played a valuable role in helping the store get started, negotiating with lawyers, painters and landlords, and taking care of the banking, among other activities.
From Franchise to Fashion
Beyond some help with advertising and marketing, the Apricot Lane franchise does not manage (or dictate) the many day-to-day aspects of the business. And so, when the Peoria location opened last October, Dixon and Green were virtually on their own.
With a background in retail, Green does the buying for the store. One of her favorite hot spots is the L.A. Fashion District, where the designers are “up and coming”—affordable, yet on the cutting edge of current trends. She also attends trade shows where she buys clothing from recognizable designers, such as Free People, Chaser LA, Wildfox Couture, Vintage Havana and Industry 213. Typically, she will attend about two trade shows a year, in addition to traveling to L.A. once or twice. She does the remainder of the buying on the Internet, looking at her wholesale vendors each night and charting the latest seasonal trends.
Green finds inspiration in a variety of places: popular magazines, the seasonal color pallet and celebrity fashion. “But I also look for different stuff,” she says. “I don’t want the same stuff as other stores.”
From designer jeans, jewelry and shoes to hair extensions, purses and other accessories, all kinds of merchandise are available at Apricot Lane. “Affordable and really fashion forward is what we go for,” adds Green. “Nothing is ‘plain Jane’ here. There is something going on with every piece.”
And the merchandise isn’t the only quality that sets Apricot Lane apart. Dixon believes that her store’s warm colors, elegant chandeliers, and friendly staff create a welcoming setting for shoppers. “It makes you feel like you are in an upscale shop,” Dixon smiles, adding that as customers see the reasonable prices, they love it even more.
The two women enhance this atmosphere by getting to know their customers personally. From recent college grads and working women to stay-at-home moms and retirees, the common factor, says Green of her diverse clientele, is the desire to be trendy and fashionable.
Mixing Up the Roles
With the boutique off the ground, Green and Dixon finally have time to sit back and contemplate what makes their business click. Both mother and daughter agree that the different talents they bring to the table keep things running smoothly.
Green takes care of things behind the scenes: buying the clothes, organizing them and working the technology. If any of the employees have a question about computer software, she is the go-to gal, whereas Dixon takes on a motherly, service-oriented role. Green smiles as she describes that Dixon is “kind of like the mom here.”
For her part, Dixon doesn’t deny it. “I make sure that the bathrooms are cleaned really well,” she laughs. “I have that niche. I am the one who has to take care of everyone.” And yet, despite carrying her maternal role into the workplace, she highlights the importance of keeping work away from home life. “If we do something as a family, we have a rule that we can’t talk about work.”
Figuring out these roles when mixing business and family was a challenge at first. “It took a role reversal,” explains Dixon. “This is one place where [Jena] can kind of tell me what to do.”
“You have to wear two hats,” adds Green. “Have your role set in stone so you know your part when you’re at work, and then when you leave work, leave it there. Don’t take it home.” iBi