While others in the marketplace might be chasing viral success online, Shari Young has approached building her new Blacque Onyx Apparel store on Troost with a more long-term strategy, she said.
“I know that in the age of social media things blow up really fast and then they’re gone — I didn’t want to be that,” said Young, owner of the local boutique and online store. “I had to tell my husband to be patient and … it was rough. It took a strain on our relationship for a small time, but we were able to just be innovative and find different ways to keep the money flowing.”
After a brief stint as an online-only shop, Blacque Onyx Apparel opened a retail and salon concept in 2016 on the corner of 39th Street and The Paseo as a way to kill two birds with one stone, she said.
The idea: Establish a loyal following in both the physical and virtual worlds that wouldn’t be dependent on unpredictable, flash-in-the-pan attention courtesy of social media.
“Most people are shopping online, but I see that people are also moving toward their local communities and that convenience,” Young said. “I like having the option of seeing what I like online also available to me in the city so I can actually go and try it on. That’s what I bring to Kansas City.”
Click here to learn more or shop Blacque Onyx Apparel.
Establishing the shop within the urban core contributed a sense of value to the community, she said, noting plans to move into a new space at 4731 Troost by the end of April.
“Most people are surprised at what they see [and] are impressed [with the store],” she added. “But, I needed a larger space, of course, and I want to drive more foot traffic into my store. This corner [39th Street and The Paseo] is great for advertising and for people to see it, but it’s hard for people to really stop and come in. So I wanted to have more of a storefront type of feel.”
A grand opening for the new space is set for May 4, said Young, noting the elevated shopping experience is expected to kick off the new vibe of the store — minus the salon and hair-cutting elements.
“I’m just expanding the boutique because what I originally wanted to do was just clothes,” she said, noting the manager of the salon is expected to continue to maintain operations at the original location.
Businesses like Blacque Onyx Apparel can be vital to the urban core, from which residents often have to leave their own communities to access desirable shopping options, Young said.
“We always had to go to the outskirts of the town to get what we wanted and it was really difficult,” she said. “When I started a few years ago, boutiques were really coming on the scene in Kansas City and there were a few up north and in Overland Park, but nothing was in the inner city.”
“My husband and I travel all the time so we went to California and I just love the setup of the shopping experience there and I just said, ‘We need something like this in Kansas City,’” she continued.
Turning to entrepreneurship after a 13-year career as a property manager for the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Young was spurred by a desire for “a sense of freedom,” she said.
“It just seemed like always trying to fight for the things that were right for my residents but the politics of the workspace and different things like that — I had to deal with for many years,” Young said. “I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, so my plan was to stay in the workforce, but I just want to do something different before I get older.”
“Then shortly after, my husband [Derek Young] did the same thing with his profession,” she laughed. Derek recently began an electrical services company called Young Services, she said.
The future holds potential for greater expansion, though the couple is determined to continue taking one step at a time, Young said.
“I guess it [starts] with just getting out there and getting a real feel for how well it does,” she said. “You just have to keep pushing forward. There are going to be some hard bumps along the way and you’re going to need a lot of support, but if you’re good at your craft — keep doing it.”
The age-old saying that small businesses don’t make money until year three — 100 percent true, she laughed.
“But at the same time, it also builds up your level at whatever it is that you’re doing,” Young said. “By your third or fifth year, you’re mastering your craft. Then by word-of-mouth people will just know you and it’ll just spill out of people’s mouths. It’s just takes time.”