A new boutique, Dear Azalea, opened in downtown Winchester the end of May with a refreshing atmosphere for local ladies to shop. The tastefully, rustic charm decor with open racks of brightly-colored clothing offered a cheerful retail experience. Owner, Kari Study said she put a lot of thought into the unusual name of her store. She wanted something unique to entice her clients.
“My sister and I were brainstorming and I decided I wanted something that sounded southern, classy and charming,” Study said. “I thought of the azalea trees in spring when they’re in full bloom. They’re gorgeous and just what I was thinking as a theme for the store.”
Study wrote a letter, titled Dear Azalea, to her customers that sits in a wall-hanging near the reception desk. She gave her sister credit for the idea, which offered an uplifting note to those who grace her threshold.
“It’s a message to encourage women to be positive and confident in their own skin,” she said, “no matter what shape or size or fashion sense they have.”
This was not Study’s first venture into the retail business. She worked at Wal-Mart as a teenager into her twenties. After raising her children out of the toddler stage, she opened Bella Blue, a children and teen boutique with a re-sell shop.
“Originally, we were in this same building, but we expanded to the north side of the square,” Study said. “That lasted about three and half years till I had another baby.”
Before she closed Bella, she had started doing custom made shirts and continued that from home through social media. She decided to add a few clothing pieces and within a couple of years, her online business took off. It sky-rocketed to the point she had clothes all over the house until customers would come and pick up. When more and more clients requested to try on the items or see them in person, the idea of Dear Azalea became a reality.
Study hesitated to make reference to her new venture as a women’s shop because she caters to a young generation, as well. Having a teenage daughter and young nieces, she wanted to provide her clothing line for young and old.
“I wanted a place where any lady of any age can come and find any outfit for any occasion,” she said. “Also, so that people can shop local, stay in town and not have to pay two or three times for the same outfit somewhere else.”
Pointedly, she kept in mind the economics of Randolph County and purposely priced her store items without a large margin of profit. So far, the business idea has paid off due to the rapid response for her clothing line. Well-made knits and cottons fill her shelves and racks with every possible ladies apparel. From dresses, jeans, pants, capris, tops with and without sleeves, rompers, overalls, cargo vests and shoes, Study has tried to appease all her customers.
She was quick to point out she carries sizes small through 3XL and does not purchase a huge assortment of any one item. Keeping her small community in mind was her purpose.
“I’m trying to keep up with the trends, things in style, but classy,” Study said. “I try to keep a lot of basic things that you can mix and match with things they have at home. The way I order items is in limited quantity, which is very beneficial to ladies in a small town. You don’t have to worry about everyone wearing the same thing.”
She also ships to out-of-towners. Recently, Study said she sold to an Indianapolis mother and daughter duo who were thrilled to find a boutique similar to the big city, yet not near as pricey.
Customer comments have been very supportive for Dear Azalea and as witnessed from her online site, where Study has amassed over 1000 members to the store group.
“They are so glad we have this in town,” Study said. “They don’t have to leave and go out of town for a cute, inexpensive outfit. They feel my things are affordable and the quality is good. I would say 90% of the people who’ve come in, leave with something.”
To contact Study, stop in the store at 105 N. Meridian, Winchester, IN or call (765)305-1961. Check out her Facebook page for special events and live sales, which she will do monthly. As she gets her business off the ground, store hours have been shortened to Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.