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Women Bisnow
August 12, 2008

Urban & Suburban

Big shout-out to great new sponsor Georgetown Univ.'s School of Continuing Studies. Don't miss the information session for the Certificate in Executive Leadership program. Aug. 12, 6:30pm, G'town Arlington Campus. Pls see ad to right.  More info.


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

Five stores in four years, and counting. Not a bad way to begin a fashion empire, especially in a city that's constantly knocked for its d?mod? duds. "A lot of people underestimate Washington," says Urban Chic founder Lindsay Buscher. "We are not crazy fashion forward but we have a great style." And with the opening of Urban Chic in Georgetown in 2004 followed by Baltimore, National Harbor, and Bethesda (with Annapolis coming in early 2009), it keeps getting better.


Ban the browns. This fall, color comes crashing in. "There's a lot of green, purple, rust and deep yellow. Bell-bottoms are back and ruffles are big for shirts." Catherine Malandrino, Rebecca Taylor, Shoshanna and Milly are some of the stores' best-selling brands.

A Salisbury-native, Buscher kept the ying and yang balanced with her fondness for both fashion and politics, the latter leading her to earn a Master's in Public Administration. "I had just gotten into a women in politics program at American and realized my passion was really for fashion. I quit my job and opened the Georgetown store." When Urban Chic opened in 2004, upper Wisconsin was not the trendy boutique-filled corner it is now. "2005 was the year for DC. Cusp, Intermix, Barneys all came and changed the face of Georgetown. And we actually do better with more stores—it brings more traffic."


Buscher and the staff of the new store on Bethesda Lane show off Fall trends.

Buscher's hurdle in the beginning was judging inventory numbers. "My biggest mistake was over-buying. It's so hard to predict, and if you buy too much it can kill you." Instead, it's expansion that's on the horizon. "After we open Annapolis, we will go national—Boston, Philadelphia, New York—but we'll wait till the economy stabilizes."


Banish the stereotypes. These days, girls' nights out are about building businesses. In 2005, when Heidi Kallett heard from her girls group that The Dandelion Patch, a fine stationary store in Vienna, was for sale, she called the store the very next day and made an offer. President of the Junior League of Northern Virginia, overseeing 600 volunteers at the time, she had to wait six months until her term was over to buy the business, and the owner waited for Kallett.


Kallett in front of hundreds of invitations. "People crave attention and personalized items. I think we're at the bottom of the bell curve and it will only go up from here."

"I was looking for something to develop on my own, not necessarily a store, but as soon as I heard about the Dandelion Patch, I stopped looking." Not yet the brand she had in mind, once in possession, Kallett changed everything but the name, exhausting the lease, re-branding, moving locations in Vienna and opening a store in Reston.


"People always expect the best for my kid's birthday parties," says Kallett outside her Reston store. "I could never send an Evite, I would be run out of town."

"We get to deal with the fun stuff in life: weddings and babies." The wedding industry is "huge," says Kallett, who gives kudos to Martha Stewart for the industry's renaissance.  She admits that Dandelion Patch is for the girls. "Men only come when dragged by their girlfriends or wives." But dragged they are. With a little luck we'll be expanding inside the Beltway. "We'll know in September. We could also be urban chic soon."

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