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So Unique: Behind The Counter at Artworks and Apparel Boutique

Artworks and Apparel Boutique owner Nikki Ratti sounds off on why she opened her store and why a customer’s individuality is so important to sales.

By: Samantha Lambert and Nikki Gamer

For some, a vacation is just that-- a vacation. But for Westminster businesswoman Nikki Ratti, a trip to South Carolina resulted in a career change. During a recent emailed interview, Ratti shared how she came to own her Main Street store along with what she thinks makes it stand out from the rest.

Name: Nikki Ratti

Title: Owner, Artworks and Apparel Boutique

On her inspiration for opening the store: I had thought about it many years ago when I was on vacation in South Carolina, and came across a boutique that I fell in love with.  This may sound crazy, but I could feel the energy as soon as I walked in and it was such a positive place to be that I enjoyed being there.  I frequented it several times on my visit there that week and found myself thinking about it and asking myself how would I do this or that if it were mine.  I guess I put it on the back burner for a while because at the time, I was a stay-at-home-mom with two kids.  I was going through a divorce about four years ago and though I was an accountant many years ago, it was not something I enjoyed so this was my opportunity to start my life over and take a chance on doing something that I loved, and felt passionate about.  I was not planning on opening a boutique right away, but certain circumstances kind of fell in my lap so I just ran with it.

On the store’s history: I bought the business a little over three and a half years ago.  I did not pick the location but rather took over the lease from the previous owners.  It's a great location on Main Street and the store front window gets a lot of attention so we make sure to utilize it to its potential.

How has the store changed since you took it over?: The store was called Artworks, and was more of a gift shop with somewhat of an art studio in the back area where the fitting rooms are now located.  Though they carried Brighton, when I bought the business I have since expanded what we carry of that particular line. I’ve also added the Trollbeads line.  This is in addition to many more exciting lines that we have brought in.  The previous owners used the space in the back for birthday parties and I believe some art classes such as mosaics.  Because they did not have fitting rooms, they offered very little clothing.  I would say that currently our inventory includes 40 percent apparel. 

Your store offers a great selection of unique items. Has individuality always been important to your style?: The store does offer unique items and that's what we strive to provide to our customers.  We want to give them a reason to not visit a mall and to not look like every other woman walking around out there.  I think that's very important to women these days.  Teenagers may want to look like each other, but I believe that the older we get, we want to show our individuality.  When buying for the store, we make sure we look for items you won't find every where else, but at the same time, we strive for quality as well as always try to take price points into consideration.  

What’s your favorite Main Street store (besides your own)?:  It would be Hickory Stick…Sandy and I have very similar taste. I love what she has in there and I think our stores complement each other.

What is something surprising about yourself that your customers might not know?: I think they find it kind of strange that I used to be an accountant. I still do my own books…I hated being an accountant…I guess I just found it boring.

What do you hope customers leave with after visiting your store?: We always want our customer to feel like they are special.  One of the most important concerns to me is customer service. I know what I expect regarding customer service when I go into any store, and I absolutely believe that our customers should receive no less.

Artworks and Apparel, 29 E. Main St. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 410-871-9590. artworksandapparel.com.

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