Aspiring entrepreneur to open new doors on Norfolk Avenue.
Marie Schroeder had a vision.
The twenty-something Elgin, Nebraska native saw a store filled with quality women’s clothing and accessories. She dreamed of a cute, welcoming boutique, its racks and shelves stocked with lace and chevron print – the same stuff she’d wear out to dinner with her family – and frequented by shoppers who shared her passion for style.
Eventually, fantasy gave way to reality, and Schroeder – an avid fashionista with a love for all things clothing, including researching and reading about current trends – started making plans for the pictures in her head.
She began by nabbing a store space in downtown Norfolk after she and her husband Ethan relocated to the city, and the rest, as the saying goes, is (almost) history.
Though the acquisition of her shop is relatively recent, the story of how Schroeder got to that point stems back a few years to her time at the University of Nebraska, where she met Ethan. (He was an agricultural economics major, and she has a degree in marketing with a minor in fashion, textile and design.) Fast forward to earlier this year, and the two, realizing Lincoln was fine for a pair of college kids but not so much for a married couple with a young son, decided to swap big city life for something a little smaller. They debated between Kearney and Norfolk and, after the latter won out, packed up and left the capital city.
In Norfolk, Ethan found a job at Petersen Ag Systems, where he works as a marketing specialist and is responsible for selling and promoting its GSI line of grain bins. He didn’t know it at the time of his hiring, but he was about to join the 2013Nebraska Small Business of the Year, an honor that was bestowed on the company by the small Business Administration..
Schroeder, on the other hand, found a location for her dream, and 318 West Norfolk Avenue became the name for her new boutique “three eighteen on the avenue”.
So far, the move to Norfolk has been kind to the young family, and Marie has noticed that being in a small city means being surrounded by friendly people. It means going to the store with her son, Jax, and exchanging friendly hellos with someone she’s never met before.
It also means that word of her business venture has traveled fast. Feedback has been positive, coming from a variety of people, including her husband.
“He’s really supportive, (though) he’s not really a women’s fashion expert,” Schroeder said.
Translation: as much as she’ll save any clothing related questions for her girlfriends, she is thankful that she has Ethan around for the “guy” things – box-carrying and manual labor – and to help take care of Jax when she’s busy with store stuff.
Currently, the boutique is still a work in progress, though Schroeder wants to be up and running before the holidays get here. (She’s aiming for a late fall/early winter opening.) The middle of July saw “three eighteen” in the middle of renovations and left Schroeder with plans to visit apparel markets, meet with vendors and sift through clothing lines, all in an effort to put the tops, bottoms and dresses in her mind onto actual hangers for display in an actual shop.
To Schroeder, her boutique will be the kind of store where a daughter can browse the same racks as her mother and, also, where the pieces they’re looking at are budget-friendly.
“I definitely want it to be affordable,” Schroeder said. “I don’t think you should have to spend $150 on a pair of jeans.”
It’s a notion she shares with many others and one that should, hopefully, bring in heavy weekend traffic and fashion-conscious women from every corner of Norfolk, as well as its surrounding towns.
However, until the time for that comes, Marie and Ethan are going to make the most of their life here, and both have taken note of the perks of living in northeast Nebraska: he’s in a town with manageable traffic, and she’s in the same city that used to be a prime shopping destination for her and her friends.
Except, this time around, she’ll be standing on the other side of the cash register.