Flourishing Fashion  Downtown Russell Boutique Flowers with Success 

Flourishing Fashion

Downtown Russell Boutique Flowers with Success

Tammie Hetzer-Womack

The Ashland Beacon

Dandelion patch 

   On this early winter day, most potted plants and colorful beds wither, waiting to be sown come springtime. But, this flowerful home of The Dandelion Patch Boutique is splashed with polka dots, whispers of pastel, and smidgens of neon, ready to redress Russell.


   If you’re looking for a holiday haven to refresh your frocks with sparkling sequined regalia or comfy activewear, the étagère awaits you with buttery-soft, hand-spun yarn cardigans and an advent of apparel suitable for every yuletide affair. 

   Owners – and sisters – Mary Kay McGinnis-Ruark and Susan McGinnis Callihan recently celebrated one year of thriving business at the Russell-based emporium, a mart of merriment around this holiday season. The Russell ladies grew up in Greenup. After college and raising their children, both “were looking for an adventure [they] could do together,” McGinnis Callihan recalled, speaking of the beginnings of their airy showroom.

   Call it kismet or just a series of life conclusions, the sisters were led to entrepreneurship. The Dandelion Boutique is happenchance to a love of style and clean silhouettes, framework for the tailored fashion gracing their racks.

   “We both like beautiful clothes and purses. We are tired of driving our money to Lexington or Columbus or shopping online. Shopping local has been important to us even before we opened the shop,” touted McGinnis Callihan, of the minted pieces attained locally, rooted in southern style, fine-tuned to fit and last.

   Opening shop was simply divine, a blessed and sacred event. Ask her what the duo did to make it happen: 

   “We prayed - we prayed a lot!”

   It was a two-woman fashion show. “Just two gals doing the best we can,” quipped McGinnis Callihan.

   Their parents – John and Kay McGinnis – are enterprising. They took their business moxie all the way to the point of opening a retail establishment. 

   “Dad has been a successful entrepreneur, thus setting that example. Mom raised us with a love for beautiful things. They both raised us with strong morals and an understanding of good work ethic.”

   Friends and family delivered the goods – the momentum to get started, as well as a boost when the process was difficult, and a spark only fellow women offer, a powerful female catalyzer kickstarting a treasure trove of graceful, ultra-posh, and classy pieces. The Dandelion Boutique is the au courant downtown venue where our small locality merges with big city vogue. As The Dandelion Boutique grew buzz, Russell delivered motivation and willingness to help.

   “Everyone was excited from the beginning. Our husbands are fully behind the business and support us with all the heavy lifting of vendor fairs, assembly of the racks and tables at the shop, and, of course, painting the shop,” McGinnis Callihan continued. 

   “Our bonus sister (seasoned Russell attorney) Tracy Frye is a huge supporter. She helps us with product lines such as the Consuela handbags and tells people about the shop and Revitalize Russell any chance she gets.”

   Their daughters, Laura, 24; Anna, 22, and Emma Kay, 19, go to Market and help the sisters pick out clothes popular for a younger crowd. It’s all-hands-on-deck, a hand and glove collective approach to family business, wholly operated by family. Sometimes it’s night-and-day, but the women seem unruffled by the work-at-hand. Customers luxuriate in the care shown at the bazaar of beautiful attire.

   There are memorable, significant moments when the sisterly team knew The Dandelion Patch would find fruition. It came with a sense of fulfillment in their first happy patrons. 

   “Some of the first indications to us were when we started having repeat customers. That is a huge compliment, and we don’t take it lightly,” she continued. “We also try to ask people where they are from and how they heard about us. Usually a friend has told them, which is also a huge compliment.”

   The Dandelion Patch welcomes several Ohio shoppers, as far as Chillicothe. Word of mouth about the Revitalize Russell movement brings a lure of clients, window shoppers, and guests. After a busy afternoon of retail therapy, bargain-seekers enjoy a savory meal at Dragonfly Outdoor Café, just a block down Ferry St.

   The wheelhouse of customers reaches Cannonsburg, downtown Ashland, Greenup and Carter counties, and onward to Vanceburg.

   “Several customers come in and are excited to buy the quality of clothing at the price. We have some great prices and try to appeal to a large range of price points.  Word is getting out that we carry Consuela purses. People come in the store and see them and usually say, ‘They are even prettier in person.’

   “Consuela is a fabulous bag that is all handmade in Texas and Mexico by artisans. They’re fabulous quality. You see each bag is a work of art. We have several different styles and can order anything from the company,” McGinnis Callihan shared.

   “We’re trying to bring back the great shopping experience many of us remember from years past. We show you different styles and combinations.  We try to curate several collections, so you have pieces that work together. We also have staple pieces such as good black dress pants - something every woman’s closet needs.”

   The Dandelion Boutique prides itself in their retail management, keeping customers first. 

   “Something our customers like is we try to be helpful, but not hover. A repeat customer told me today that she likes to get ideas on how to style things but appreciates that we let her just shop and look also… We are not about the hard sell. You need to love it in the shop, or you aren’t going to wear it when you get it home.

   We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to buy. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. We get about two to four new boxes a week. We will have something in the next box that you love. We want you to buy beautiful clothes that make you feel good.”

   The motivating force was simple and couture based. The owners saw a need for quality, comfortable, beautiful clothing in our area for ages 15-70. Their fall and winter collections place more emphasis on a mature shopper. 

   They chose downtown Russell as their homefield due to the driving force and movement of Revitalize Russell. As Kristie Patterson, Revitalize Russell and owner of The Edge Business Center in Russell has said, ‘We need to stop waiting on someone to come save us. We need to help ourselves.’

   McGinnis Callihan agrees. “We do need industries and good-paying jobs here. We need major economic development. About 66 cents of every dollar spent in a small business stays in the local economy. We need to remember that when we shop.”

   There is a straightforward and unequivocal sisterhood ringing across Russell among the new business owners, which includes a Downtown Business Association which meets monthly. They stay in touch via group text with Leslie Fowler Jarvis of Franklin & Doodle at the helm of the organization, serving as President. Revitalize Russell plans events in unison and attempts to maintain similar business hours.

   The first point of sale was the moment when the women realized the lead-up work was worth it. 

   “…when we made our first sale and saw the customer smile.” McGinnis Callihan is a different person today for her opportunity at small business ownership.

   “I can’t speak for Mary Kay, but I’m in awe of any entrepreneur - even more than before. It’s scary - really scary. Super scary! You are just waiting and praying that people will like the things you picked out at Market months ago. You invested money and time and effort and just hope you made all the right choices. It’s also just so . . . much . . . work. 

   “So much more than just when the lights are on. We’re always thinking about the shop. Always. 

From everything to the social media, to the bookkeeping, to the schedule, to the marketing, to the cleaning, to the advertising, to the next photo shoot, to the next vendor fair, to the website, to what the mannequins are wearing - and still even more than just this small list.”

   She acknowledges hard work is also fun. The women were raised that hard work pays off.

   The twosome knows their business decisions touch many walks of life. As mothers, they ask themselves if they would let their own daughters wear the attire. “If the answer is no - we don’t bring it in the shop… We have never had an issue with our girls picking out things we don’t approve of - we are all on about the same page. They pick out some cute younger styles - might not be stuff we would wear, but we are 50, not 20,” laughed McGinnis Callihan.

   As community members, they are more cognizant of the importance of supporting local retailers. McGinnis Callihan relays a personal story:

   “There is a specific present I wanted to get John (my husband) for Christmas. I could have bought it online a few dollars cheaper – but, for a few reasons, I bought it from Franklin & Doodle instead. Shopping local means keeping our money here.”

   She points out online businesses don’t back local causes or charities.

   “They don’t support our local cheerleaders, our local yearbooks, our local high school bands, our local softball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, or basketball teams. They don’t support our local radio station or newspapers or local historic properties. They don’t take part in community events like Halloweentown, or seasonal parades, or fall festivals.

   “We need to lift each other up,” McGinnis Callihan concluded, welcoming new customers for the holiday rush, portraying a piece of their clothing as “classic, chic, and comfortable.”

   Each item must meet all three criteria. The shop is working to increase offerings for women over age 40. The Dandelion Patch Boutique purchases the smallest quantity of goods at Market.

   “You don’t want to look like everyone else. You want to be fashionable, but not everyone wearing the same outfit. We help women of all ages and shapes feel beautiful. We want you to leave the store happier than when you came in. This is true whether you spend hundreds or nothing. We hope you enjoy the experience and, of course, find something you love.”

   Through it all, the sister pair paints their passion for fashion and heartens other women to galvanize their dreams by opening shop. Some rules of thumb:

   “Make sure you have a strong support system. We couldn’t do this without our families. Join us. It’s a lot - it’s hard - but fun.”

   If you’re interested in shopping The Dandelion Patch Boutique, it is located at: 317 Ferry Street, Russell. Holiday hours are Tues. – Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

   There’s a current sale of 25 percent off all Christmas items.

   “If we don’t have something, ask us. We can order lots of things.” McGinnis Callihan finished.

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