Making the most of a dashed holiday plan

When I opened Violet in March, my goal was to create an environment where every customer could have a boutique experience, without the sticker shock.

Far from the common misconception that 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan is not a welcoming place for retail, the community has greeted us with open arms. Our sales exceed all expectations and even more gratifying were the customers who return again and again, even if just to browse and say hi. Most meaningful were the many women, who began simply trying on a cute top, have become close friends.

Violet did brisk business on average turning over nearly all our inventory every 21 days. Repeat customers learned that every Tuesday dozens of new items arrive and would show up in anticipation.

In September we began planning for the holiday shopping season. My original vision was to double the inventory of our hottest items — sequined skirts for parties, gun-metal colored dresses, motorcycle-style jackets and cozy knit sweaters and skirts.

However, several weeks ago, construction crews began tearing up the street and sidewalks in front of Violet. The project, a net positive, will widen 18th Street and beautify the neighborhood, making it more pedestrian friendly. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time: The construction, lasting throughout the holiday shopping season, has cut our weekday foot traffic in half.

This business is a labor of love. Just as it warms my heart when a customer writes on Yelp about how they are “constantly” complimented about a dress they bought at the store, my heart sinks when I see the sign declaring the sidewalk outside my store closed.

We’ve trimmed a Christmas tree and decorated the store, but as a result of the construction, we’ve scaled back our holiday plans. The disappointment is not financial. As a child I loved the holiday season. I wanted to bring that same joy to each of my customers.

Jackhammers and Jersey barricades will not dampen our spirit, though. We had our merchandising consultant come in from Los Angeles to give us a once-over on how best to prominently display holiday gifts in the store. One must-have item for any Washingtonian are “smart-tip” gloves allowing you to use any kind of phone without exposing your hands to the cold.

We’ve also started a promotion called Violet dollars. Up until Thanksgiving, for every $50 spent we’ll give a $10 coupon to come back. We’re also hosting half a dozen parties so customers can have a private shopping experience with their friends.

I was incredibly lucky to open a business that instantly attracted a huge following. While our first holiday retail season is not what I had anticipated, this experience has taught me how to be flexible and adapt to less than desirable circumstances.

I look forward to our second year, continuing to serve Adams Morgan. The construction will be over, the street will be beautified and no matter what the street looks like outside, inside Violet, every customer will be welcomed with open arms.

Julie Egermayer is owner of Violet Boutique in Northwest Washington.

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