The Frock Shop is a dress rental business that enables women to obtain elegant dresses, and designer evening wear for a fraction of what they would cost to buy. Rent, wear, return. After seeing some of what was offered, I thought it would be interesting to talk to owner Jennifer Burrell
What gave you the idea for the Frock Shop?
I was cleaning out my closet one day and noticed all of the beautiful dresses I purchased over the years. I still had my prom dress, wedding dress, party dresses etc. These dresses had only been worn for a few hours and were still in very good condition. I thought there had to be a better way! If men could rent tuxedos, then why couldn't women rent dresses? I did some research and found that there were no dress rental companies in Chicago and The Frock Shop was born.
What do you like best about this business?
We are providing a service that helps a woman look and feel beautiful for very memorable events in her life, such as prom, engagement parties and birthdays. I like to call it a "happy business". I love helping women look great. It's great to see how wearing a beautiful designer dress can transform how a woman looks and feels!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Getting started was a challenge. The dress rental model is very capital intensive because you have to purchase a significant amount of inventory up front. Different styles, different sizes, etc. We only carry designer and high end dresses, so our inventory costs are very high. It took a while for us to accumulate our dresses and get the business off the ground. But now that we have about 300 dresses in stock, it is moving pretty smoothly. We also know what types of dresses women rent and what types they do not, so we make smart choices about what we buy so that we do not have dresses just 'sitting' in inventory.
Any one or two events that your customers always rent a dress for?
We have a steady stream of women that come in for black tie event rentals year round. But our biggest seasons are definitely prom and New Year's Eve. We do not carry as many dresses as a department store, so we rotate our inventory seasonally. During times like now (New Years), we have more sequin party dresses. For Valentine's Day, we will have a lot of date night dresses.
How do you make sure that your dresses are in style?
I love fashion and have worked in fashion for many years. So it's second nature for me to stay on top of the trends. I do this by reading the fashion trade magazines and monitoring New York and international fashion weeks. Also, I am always in tune with pop culture and monitoring what celebrities are wearing. This is especially important for our younger customer, who tends to want to look and dress like her favorite singer, actress or reality star. In addition, I am always looking at what women are wearing; especially to black tie events, weddings and birthday parties. This is very important because not all national fashion trends translate well to a Chicago customer. So when I notice what Chicago women are wearing and see a re-occurring trend, it helps me to make better buying decisions.
Why do you like what you're doing?
It sounds very cliche, but there is nothing better than doing what you really love because it does not feel like work. I enjoy going into work everyday. I love being an entrepreneur because I can control my financial destiny and it gives me an opportunity to build a business that will be around for a long time.
If you can't afford that designer dress you've had your eye on, you may just find it here. Located in Pilsen, The Frock Shop is open six days a week; no appointment needed. Or you can shop online and have your dress shipped to you. Support a local business. Look fabulous. And leave the dry cleaning and expense to someone else.