At a time when retailers are being forced to scale back or close their brick-and-mortar stores because of the increasing popularity and one-click convenience of online shopping, Sami Dietrich is taking her clothing shop from the virtual marketplace to an actual storefront.
Dietrich, 22, started her online women’s clothing and accessories store, S. & Co. Boutique, in November 2015 while she was finished up her business degree at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.
Then this July with help from her parents, Todd and DeeAnn Dietrich of Rapid City, she opened the physical location of S. & Co. Boutique at 910 Main St. Suite 100, which is next door to Essence of Coffee.
“The online business always had been a side job, and my goal has always been for it to be my No. 1 thing, to be able to support myself on it,” Dietrich said.
Online sales from the boutique helped sustain her while she earned a Bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on entrepreneurial studies from BHSU and continued to grow when she went to work coordinating advertising for Riddle’s Jewelry in Rapid City.
Dietrich also continued to nurture plans to expand her business.
Those plans accelerated this summer when she noticed a vacant shop in the 900 block of Main Street. Dietrich decided the time was right to take the next step and contacted the building’s owner.
“I called the guy the next day and ended up signing a lease three days after that. It was really quick,” she said.
Dietrich also set the ambitious goal of being open for business within a month’s time, while continuing her full-time job at Riddle’s.
Her parents pitched in to help her build everything inside the store, including interior walls and dressing rooms.
“Every day after work we would work until 10 or 11 every night. It was a super stressful month,” she said.
Dietrich said her business education prepared her for many of the nuances of opening the store, but not the myriad of little details and difficulties cropping up along the way.
“There were times getting the store ready, even my parents and I were like ‘this is crazy. I don’t know why I’m doing this,’” she said.
But she called her grand opening late in July a grand success.
“The store was packed. There were so many people who came out to support me,” she said.
Dietrich specializes in young women’s clothing and accessories, depending, she said, on her style, but not limited to the 18-30 age group.
“I like to work out a lot so there a section of workout clothes, and I like to dress up some days, so there’s fancy and casual styles, too,” she said. “I have girls in high school that buy from me and my mom and her friends buy from me too, so I think I’m able to cater to several different ages."
Dietrich said shoppers may prefer the convenience of online browsing for some items, but particularly in the case of clothing people want to touch the item and try it on for size.
“I don’t think that’s ever going to go out of style no matter how big Amazon gets. Many other people are always going to want to shop. For girls, it’s an activity they enjoy doing. It’s a part of community, going out with our friends,” she said.
The storefront adds another level of risk to her entrepreneurial venture, such as the need to pay rent, but that’s all part of the calculated risk-reward aspect of being in business.
Her online business often saw orders steadily coming in to be filled mixed with several days of inactivity. She knows the store will also have its busy and down times.
“It’s not going to be consistent, so you have to know how to roll with the punches, when you need to save a little money and when you can invest,” she said.
For now the S & Co. Boutique’s store hours are limited to a few nights per week, as Dietrich continues her other job. She plans to expand her hours as business permits.
Dietrich promoted her online boutique through “pop-up shopping” events, setting up displays of her clothing and accessory lines at venues around town, such as Arrowhead Country Club and the Dahl Fine Arts Center.
She also plans to work with other small business owners like makers of jewelry to help both ventures grow.
“Local business is where it’s at. I want to help people wherever I can and have them help me, also,” Dietrich said.
Contact Dietrich at 605-484-2172, or check out her website, sandcompany.co.
(Editor's note: this story has been changed to correctly list the website for S. & Co.)