The first online order came in through Bluetique’s web site Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning Bluetique owner Kayla Rathbun had the merchandise wrapped and awaiting a mailing label.
“This is going to Kansas City, they ordered three items,” Rathbun said. “There’s a leopard sherpa pullover, there’s a leopard-print dress, so she must love leopard, like me, and a black and gold sweater.”
Rathbun reopened her women’s clothing and accessory shop at the corner of Eighth and Main streets last week, relocating it from N. Main to her newly purchased limestone building, the historic Geo. Philip Hardware store.
“I really just wanted my own space. Who doesn’t, if the opportunity arises?” Rathbun said. “Plus, in my opinion, this is the best piece of downtown history. Everyone loves this building. We’re really proud and happy to be a part of it.”
Rathbun bought the building at a sheriff’s auction in October as part of the package of properties foreclosed and sold from Plainville businessman Chuck Comeau’s DFC Holdings and Liberty Group Inc.
By Feb. 22, she hopes to have the remaining half of the building open to business as well, relocating her Something Blue bridal shop there.
Now in her fourth year of business, Rathbun moved both shops recently from rented space near 11th Street.
“It is scary," she said of building a business. "I never thought that this was where my life would go. I just knew I didn’t want to work for someone else.”
She hasn’t had to do a lot to the new Bluetique space, just adding two fitting rooms and removable slat walls for hanging merchandise.
The wood flooring is original to when the limestone building was a general store in the 1870s and a hardware store in the 1890s.
“You can see where the original cabinet was on the floor right here where it’s bowed in,” Rathbun said. “It’s really cool.”
The bridal shop is another story, with her father-in-law Roy Rathbun's Roy’s Contracting doing the work.
It will be filled with wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses when it’s done, and there will be adjoining doors from the clothing shop.
Customers will have their choice of two large private rooms for brides and their families, each one with a changing room, and storage rooms for gowns.
Rathbun is going for an elegant look for the bridal space, complete with six or seven chandeliers.
“It’s a completely different vibe, and that’s how I wanted it,” she said. “It’s very formal over there. I just want the brides to walk in there and instantly think wedding. The walls are going to be white, very clean, very crisp, open, the whole front room will be all of our bridal gowns. So, nice and airy.”
A Colby native, Rathbun started out in business selling her handmade paper roses on Etsy. The business grew to sales nationwide, including wedding orders as big as 4,000 flowers. She married, had two kids, earned her degree at Fort Hays State University, then opened the clothing store, and later added wedding gowns.
Busy now with her brick and mortar shops, she recently shuttered her Etsy platform, having sold more than 100,000 flowers. Rathbun has five part-time employees at Something Blue and Bluetique, which offers clothing for women of all ages as well as formal gowns for prom.
She’ll attend her first national apparel market for retailers this March in Chicago to see the latest fashions.
Rathbun plans to get more private bridal gowns and private lines, she said.
“That just means that if I have them, other local bridal stores can’t get them, and you also can’t find photos of them on the internet, you can’t order them online,” she said.
She credits her husband, family, friends and customers with helping her businesses flourish, which lends anticipation for the bridal store reopening in the new space.
“I love bridal appointments, they’re just a good time, they’re fun,” she said. “I like hearing about other people’s wedding plans, and I love wedding gowns. And now I get to own 300 of them. It’s like playing Barbies every day, but with humans.”
For now she’s offering free shipping on the website and will see how that goes.
“I just launched the website and it tells me where the visitors are coming from and last night we had a lot,” she said, citing Kansas City, Michigan, Colorado, Hays and western Kansas. “It was really neat.”