Nicole Schnitzlein, owner of Lady Jones Boutique, had an interest in fashion from the time she was very little, but it wasn’t until she began work in the retail world she could see a future in the industry. She first started work in the retail market in Avon, Colorado where she took on roles such as assistant manager, as well as management of social media channels.
“Call it my ‘ah-ha moment.’ Once I took my head out of my work and took a 30,000-foot view, I was able to see the full picture,” said Schnitzlein. “I was doing the work necessary to make a successful store so why not do it myself? It also fulfills the things I wanted in a career — the creative side, the business aspect, the social aspect, building client relationships. It turns out it checked all the boxes in terms of what it entails to make a lady happy.”
After a few years in Avon, Schnitzlein moved to Denver and eventually became a buyer for four retail stores and manager of the Denver region. She quickly realized she had a knack for working in the retail industry and decided to try it out on her own, so she opened her first Lady Jones Boutique back in 2016. Her collection features items made by Denver-based designers, as well as brands committed to social and environmental causes. Following her first store’s success, Schnitzlein recently opened a new location in Vail. The expansion shines a light on the vision Schnitzlein has for the future of Lady Jones.
303 Magazine: Can you tell us about your collection of carefully curated clothing? What does your process look like to decide what to showcase?
Nicole Schnitzlein: The bottom line is I have to be different. People can look at competition through various lenses but it’s about the items you carry. At the end of the day, we’re selling product. Furthermore, choosing what to sell is the biggest battle for me because it has to be different — apart from the physical aspects. I take into account the story of a brand to feel a connection between a product and the story. Brand story plays a big role in how we pick our collection.
I never want my collection to be over-the-top — this is Denver, not New York. However, there’s something happening here. As a fashion city, Denver’s brand is still evolving. It was important to have something chic and fashionable but makes sense for the lifestyle of the city. There was nothing for this growing middle ground of people — 30 and 40 something-year-olds with kids and careers. Moreover, people who want to feel good but don’t have time to chase the latest trends. I wanted to build a community where people can shop and feel good about themselves.
303: Why is it important for you to work with brands that commit to social and environmental causes?
NS: We have a platform. It’s tiny, but it’s important to help create this air of awareness in the fashion industry. It’s relevant to take the time to research a brand and find those designers who do amazing things and help move the industry forward. In choosing what to carry, I try to make sure brands reflect my own ideals. Moving forward, we can collectively build more awareness around their brand.
303: Can you tell us about the second location you opened up recently in Vail? Why did you decide this new location would be a hit?
NS: Having lived and worked in Vail, I got to see the similarities between Tennyson Street and Vail Village. There’s an incredible local population — such a small town close-knit feel. These are the same aspects I love about my Denver shop. Yes, we’re in the city, but Tennyson Street is this miraculous community of local businesses who look out for their community. I find the same thing in Vail Village.
I knew this was a great choice because Vail has a similar void to Denver. It was funny, going to market people kept telling me there are no stores here, there’s no market for me to tap into. While there are so many amazing shops in the Vail area, I’m here to offer something different. Something chic, responsible and attainable.
303: What can we expect from this second store?
NS: My whole gist is similar, yet different — it’s the name of the game. We’ll have a lot of similar styles — about 50 percent cross over. Many of these brands are mainstays in my Denver location but will be totally new to the Vail demographic. What we have in Denver is working so well I didn’t want to change it too much. However, within the buying there will be a lot of different styles so customers will find something new each time, regardless of the store they’re in.
303: Can you explain what your buying process entails?
NS: There is much to do outside of spreadsheets and meticulous buying plans I keep and stand by. It’s a real Tetris game, but once you have brands narrowed down and who you are willing to stand behind, the rest is just the creative factor. I can’t stress enough the importance of visualization. Our store in Denver is 800 square feet. Meanwhile, the Vail store is 600 square feet. You have to pack quality and presentation into that. I want it to look well-curated in the shop and not piecemeal.
When I come back home, I lay photos out and take time to go through each piece. I want all my lines to play together. I also want to introduce new but staples. They all work as a cohesive unit. While I carry great brands with great stories, they’re all housed under our Lady Jones brand. The end goal is what has to ring true. At the end of the day, it’s a box you bring to your store — it has to fit and play with everyone
You won’t find overstocked racks in my store filled to the brim. It’s about building blocks for a wardrobe. You’re not finding a sequin dress and pair of heels. They all have to play together — it’s a lifestyle. You’re going to find that something different — that statement piece that will stay together. But we put together the building blocks for the rest. We carry underwear made in the U.S. to socks and jackets. It really is the building blocks for your wardrobe — quality over quantity. In the end, they have to play together.
303: What is your strategy for breaking into the Vail market?
NS: It’s about building a community around the store. It’s what we did in Denver and the same thing exists up there. There’s a population of locals. Yes, we’re here for visitors but I want the locals to have a place to connect to more than a tourist market.
303: What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects and/or collaborations?
NS: In the near future we’re doing a really exciting collaboration with Maggie who designs Oxbow jewelry. That has been such a hit and some days I feel like she’s my coworker. She’s amazing and has been instrumental in building our Denver store. When I told her I wanted to open a Vail store her first reaction was, “Let’s do something together.” This will only be available in Vail, but we’re doing a mix of fine jewelry and our own little offshoot specifically for Vail.