Boutique grows from home biz into niche gallery
(March 20, 2015) Owner Gina March is no stranger to retail business, which is apparent when walking into BomShell Boutique, which is located on Ocean Gateway in West Ocean City, and observing a store full of items not found everywhere else.
“When I have free time, I travel to shows in New York and search sites for cool accessories,” March said. “I spend a lot of time finding people who hand make their items.”
She said she spends the majority of her time finding pieces other stores in the area do not carry.
“My first question to vendors are who do you sell to in the area,” she said. “It’s a small community, I don’t want people to see our clothes in other stores.”
The women’s clothing store carries dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes, accessories, bras, camisoles, bandeaus, leggings and gift items such as notepads and shotglasses.
“We spend a lot of time bringing in great products at affordable prices and our merchandise has a fast turnover,” March said. “I don’t want the girls to feel guilty about buying an outfit, I want them to love it and buy it because their piece might not be there when they return. We always think about the customers before bringing in an item.”
Customer service makes BomShell Boutique stand out from other clothing stores.
“We are giving you an experience on what a boutique should be and it has gotten lost through the years,” March said. “We want to know our customers by their first names and be an uplifting, supportive system.”
March, originally from Philadelphia, began her career in retail while working for a women’s clothing store in high school. She would go on to work at Nordstrom and Aldo Shoes. After working her way up in the retail business, she received promotions and eventually became a district manager.
She left retail for a little while to focus on sales and was transferred to Baltimore, where she met her husband. They moved to Ocean City nine years ago.
March started BomShell Boutique as a home business through Facebook in 2012 for fun while raising her four sons. She recalls putting a few pieces of jewelry up on the social media site one summer day and went to the beach. When she returned home, everyone wanted to buy the pieces she posted.
She continued to keep posting and in no time, March was selling clothing.
Her customers wanted to try on the clothes and after finding out she was local, asked if they could come to her house.
March loved the idea and started providing more inventory for the women.
“I literally grew out of my dining room,” she said. “Moms who had a hard time shopping with their kids could come to my house, stay and shop for a few hours, have a cup of coffee and we became friends.”
During the holiday season, March had more than 70 women come to her house to shop one night.
“Most of the women I did not know and I sat at the counter and wrote orders for two hours straight, the line was out the door, it was the craziest thing,” she said.
This success told her there was a need in the community for a boutique offering the types of products she enjoys selling.
The upstairs portion of her husband’s building on Racetrack Road in Berlin was vacant and she moved in during the first week of February 2013.
BomShell Boutique remained in this location for almost two years.
“Our permit was up and we started looking at a couple spaces in town,” March said. “This West Ocean City location stood out with Women Supporting Women and Yogavibez next door, it was a good fit.”
BomShell Boutique moved into the Ocean Creek Plaza on Ocean Gateway in West Ocean City during the Christmas and New Year holiday.
“The visibility from the highway and foot traffic has been tremendous and we have already seen an increase in visitors and so many new faces,” March said. “I am looking forward to being in West Ocean City for a summer season.”
Many of the familiar faces March sees browsing through the West Ocean City store were visitors to her home when she first opened.
January and February can be tough months for retail stores, especially on the outskirts of a major summer destination, but BomShell Boutique tripled their sales in January this year, as compared to 2014.
BomShell Boutique has been online for about a year, which allows the store to ship packages all over the United States. March said her audience is continuing to grow.
“This year we will place more emphasis in developing our online store,” March said. “When people walk into our store the first impression is our personal experience. Online we can only give so much and they are not able to feel the clothes. Our goal is to have our online presence as strong as the store.”
The online store has free shipping for orders more than $50 and customers can exchange for a different size.
The store has a strong presence on Facebook and Instagram, where they posts new arrivals and have giveaways on both sites once a week.
Since her staff has gotten larger, March has more time to focus on her customers.
“I work with the girls and style them,” March said. “Customer service is a number one priority. We will do anything and everything including alterations.”
She will go out to women’s houses and help them style outfits with the clothes they have in their closets. In addition, she tries to host a “girl’s night” every month.
The store will host private shopping parties where women can bring their friends and intimately shop. The hostess will receive a gift card for free clothes.
“It means a lot they want to come and shop with us,” March said. “We want to make a homey, comfortable and enjoyable experience. Bring your kids, we will hold and play with them while you shop.”
BomShell Boutique is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours will be extended once the season is in full swing.
Owner Gina March, left and employee Nancy Sweeney
take a minute to pose in the front of BomShell Boutique’s store.
The unique women’s clothing store changed locations over the
Christmas holiday and opened in West Ocean City a few months ago.