Clothing Store Desert Rose Expands Downtown

By Johanna Cano, posted Sep 16, 2019
Sisters Mavis and Louise Rose founded Desert Rose, a retail store that carries women's clothing and accessories with a focus on a free-spirited, Bohemian style. (Photo courtesy of Desert Rose)
Desert Rose, a clothing boutique started by sisters Mavis (right) and Louise Rose, has expanded downtown as a response to the growth the store has seen since opening a year ago.

Previously, the boutique had a smaller space at The Hallway Shops downtown. Now, the store is at 208 North Front St., a 1,500-square-foot location that opened two weeks ago.

“We were [at The Hallway Shops] space for about six months, we absolutely loved it. It was the perfect starting point for us. And then we just ended up kind of growing out of that space really quickly,” Louise Rose said. “This space is much larger, and now we have a window street view, which has been huge. That and having the ability to have more inventory has really helped.”

The store carries women’s clothing, accessories and home goods. The products at the store are selected depending on what’s currently popular in fashion, Louise Rose said.

“I think knowing what's on trend but also wanting to be unique and different has been a big factor for us,” she said. “We curate the collection to really feel like what we enjoy with fashion or what we love, which is a free-spirited, Bohemian style and kind of go off that. But still, we want to get things that we know people will want to buy that's on trend currently.”

The owners decided to open downtown to fill a void for moderately-priced clothes, Louise Rose said.

“It was an area that we felt like we could make an impact in terms of providing fashion that's affordable,” she said. “A lot of times we felt like a lot of things were not necessarily overpriced but just relatively expensive. So, we felt like if we could come in with clothes that were trendy and stylish and unique at a good price point, that we could kind of fill a niche in that area.”

Most of the clothing labels in the store are Los Angeles-based, but the owners work to find more local artists that they can display.

“The jewelry we purchase is all from small women-owned businesses, whether that be here in Wilmington or just all over. We really strive to bring that into our store as our goal,” Louise Rose said. “With clothes, we've found it a little bit harder. So, we've really made sure in every other area we have that we try to incorporate small women in businesses, so through our jewelry, accessories, and things like that.”

The sisters, both Wilmington natives, started the store online in June 2018 after deciding to combine their areas of specialty.

Louise Rose graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fashion textile and Mavis Rose graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in hospitality management and a minor in business.

Currently, most of the people that shop at the store are women from the ages of 20 to 30, Louise Rose said.

The store markets its clothing through its DR Babes campaign, where its clothes are modeled by women of all sizes and ethnicities, and pictures are posted on social media, she said.

“My sister and I are really big believers in being confident in who you are and really loving yourself wholeheartedly. This day and age, it’s really competitive with women looking on social media and just feeling like they're inadequate,” Louise Rose said. “We have had different types of models of all ethnicities and different sizes. We just want to portray the fact that we really want to reach that type of audience and show people that the most important thing about being confident is being yourself and being individual.”

With the news of national clothing retail stores closing locations, including J.Crew, Charlotte Russe, and most recently Forever 21, Desert Rose hopes that its message and story will continue its success.

“I think that what is important and what has gotten us success so far is just being true to ourselves and really trying to showcase that we're local women who really want to bring something special to our community,” Louise Rose said.

In the future, the sisters hope to grow the business and add services.

“My sister and I have discussed that we want to, at some point, set up styling appointments and be personal stylists. A lot of women don't necessarily know what to look for when they're shopping. And I think that we could really help them out with that,” she said. “We've only been around a year, but in a few years, we would love to have multiple stores. That's something that we would want to strive for once we've figured out how this process has worked and given a little more time so we can see what the numbers are and get a proven process down.”
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