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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques in and around Washington, D.C.
There's one question that Kelly Ferenc, owner of Old Town's Bishop Boutique, often asks herself: "What would Martha do?" And Ferenc is in a better position than most to know the answer. She worked with Martha Stewart in New York and took meetings with America's favorite domestic guru. Now Ferenc brings the lessons she learned from Martha to her two-year-old accessories shop — from social media outreach to lookbook collaborations with Washington fashion bloggers. "I envision the store being my closet. It's more of a hangout," said Ferenc. It's the girliest hangout ever, stocked with the latest styles from covetable brands like Loeffler Randall, Loren Hope, French Connection, CC Skye, and Princess Kate's favorite brand, LK Bennett. Ferenc worked at a shoe store throughout college and then part-time while freelancing in television, and after the jump, she tells us all about starting her own shop in Old Town, the Kate Middleton effect, Martha, and what shoe she recommends for every occasion ever.
What did you do in television?
I started off at MTV and VH1, and I ended my television career at Martha Stewart, which was amazing. It's by far one of the most amazing companies I think anyone could ever work for. I loved it. Being surrounded by the most unbelievably creative and intelligent people, it was awesome. I learned so, so much there. I feel like that taught me so much to bring to the store, to our website, our social media, our branding, as a whole. It was a really great education.
You were doing editorial for her website?
Everything that happened on the show, I correlated on the website. All the video, all the imagery, the step-by-step instructions, how to do a certain craft. I got to work with absolutely every single team that made the television show to make the website happen. I also was able to write her newsletter to correspond with the television show.
What brought you to Alexandria?
My husband. I am originally from Atlanta. My husband is from New Jersey. We met each other at a bar in Manhattan. Very romantic. He was in law school and I was working at Martha Stewart. He already had his job down here, and I wanted to come back down south. We love it here. It's really become our home. We lived in the District for two years and now we've lived in Old Town for three.
It seems like the businesses are so supportive here.
That's why I chose Old Town to open at first. Between the Chamber, the ACVA, you name it, the support is there. Everybody wants Old Town to be a destination for shopping, food, entertainment, and history.
How did you find the location?
That was interesting. Real estate is fast here, even in the recession. And I opened two years ago, so we were still in the thick of the recession. You would look at one place, you couldn't even think about it for 24 hours, it was gone. I stumbled upon it, I was just searching, searching and we were actually thinking about doing a location on Cameron Street, and that did not work out. I was looking again and a shop was leaving, and I grabbed it, and here we are.
How do you pick your merchandise? When you were thinking about the store, was that in your mind who you were going to stock?
Yes, always. The biggest proponent of how I pick the merchandise is what I feel about it. I consider the store my closet. I walk into the showroom just as if I were shopping in a store and I buy what I love, and thank goodness, a lot of people love it as well.
Why did you only want to focus on accessories?
I have always had a love for shoes. That's why in college I worked at a shoe store and not a clothing store. I guess it just grew from there.
Does anyone else sell LK Bennett?
We are exclusive in Old Town.
What about Loeffler Randall?
We're exclusive in Old Town. She went to UVA, Jessie Randall, so that's a fun Virginia connection. I love her brand. I am wearing her boots right now, and we've all discussed our love for the Tamsin. I am such a geek when I go to her showroom. I want it all. She gets it. She's on the edge but it can be worn in a really classic way.
I do try to have a broad spectrum of inventory. If you are shopping with your mom or your daughter, or your sister, or your aunt or your grandmother, everyone can leave with something. And you might leave with the same item, just different sizes. Which is always really fun. We have tons of bridal groups that come in, brides that are getting married in Old Town.
I know the lookbooks are such a huge thing for you. Did your time at Martha influence them?
Yeah. There's a lot of times I think about things and I think "What would Martha do?" Without a doubt. We wanted a way to expose the store virally, in a way that was really beautifully done. I think the lookbook translates the items and how you can wear them, just like a Bloomingdales catalog. You see the models, but they are really your everyday girl. We do a lot with the fashion bloggers in D.C. which is really fun because they get to get exposure for their blogs. They get to style their looks with our items, which is just amazing. It's a really great mutual collaboration that's worked out really well, and they are so fun to work with.
Do you have any classic pieces that you always have in stock that people go crazy for?
The LK Bennett Sledge. The Kate Middleton shoe. We can not keep any of those pieces in stock. The Kate Middleton effect is insane. Our LK Bennetts are definitely our classic pieces. The Sledge: you can wear it to work, you can wear it to a wedding, you can wear it to a happy hour, you can wear it to a bridal shower, you can wear it to lunch. Anything you want, that shoe covers it for you.
And you have trendier items as well.
Yes. The trendier items are the lower price range as well, all the Ivanka Trump shoes, the French Connection shoes, those are all entry lines at $140, $135. Those are where you are going to hit those fast trends like the fold-over bootie which are awesome and looks fantastic on everyone's leg. Are you going to wear it in five years? No. But you are going to wear the Sledge that's the higher price. You're going to wear it forever.
Same with the LK Bennett riding boots. That boot is going to be $545 or $595. That's a boot you are going to have for 10 years. It's timeless. I think a lot of customers get a little freaked out by some of the high price points, but if you think about dollar per wear, you're going to get so much out of something you invest in in a long-term way.
What are your plans for the future? Would you ever come to the District?
I would love to. You never know what the future holds. Opening up a second store would be so exciting.
How has e-commerce complemented the shop?
We've had that since we've opened. It's been really, really great. I think now if you're going to open up a small business, you have to be able to compete with the big box stores. You can't open without a website, without e-commerce, I believe so. We can do viral campaigns. We ship to Texas and California, we've shipped to London before. We've had to ship LK Bennett bags and shoes to London because they can't find them there. We ship everywhere, we ship same day.
Time for the lightning round! 8 a.m. or 8 p.m.
I would've usually said 8 p.m. but now with the baby, 8 a.m.
Beer or wine?
Whiskey or tequila?
Beach or mountain?
Cat or dog?
Happy hour spot here in Alexandria?
Grape + Bean
Breaking Bad or Homeland.
Both, but probably Breaking Bad.
Which Real Housewives franchise?
I am going to go old-school and do the OC. I've been watching it since it came out, so I have to stick with my girls. But I mean I watch every single one of them. I even watched D.C. all the way through.
· Cute Dogs, Cuter Accessories in Bishop Boutique's Fall Lookbook [Racked DC]
· Bishop Boutique [Official Site]