Five West Island fashion entrepreneurs are finding out – after joining forced a few months ago – that they are stronger together than they could have possibly imagined.
The five women are Pointe Claire resident Diane Bondaruk, Kirkland resident Kelly Grattan, Grattan's KK Creations partner Katy Karras, Kirkland resident Linda Lavigne and St. Laurent resident Esther Brzezinski. The five have come together after realizing how much they could do working together and sharing shifts at their retail space, located on the second floor of a nondescript office building on Hymus Boulevard in Pointe Claire.
Given the austere nature of the building and its slightly-off-the-beaten-path location, you would be forgiven if you thought this was a fly-by-night operation – but set one foot into the tastefully-decorated space makes you think you might be in an haute-couture boutique – except most women can actually afford the items the self-described divas are selling. The five each ran their own small businesses until the idea struck them to team up. Now, with each selling their wares inside the same space, they can take different shifts manning the store and have enhanced the customer experience for clients by adding each other's material – be it shoes, couture pieces, accessories or jewelry.
The four businesses are the House of Shoes, boasting 'brand name women's footwear at the lowest prices,' Style En Vogue, 'women's fashions at a fraction of retail prices, KK Creations, 'fabulous sterling silver jewelry at phenomenal prices,' and Esther B accessories, selling 'luxurious accessories and fashions at affordable prices.'
And it's all available at a fraction of retail prices. With little overhead and no staffing costs, they can keep prices low – a huge benefit for West Islanders looking to stretch their clothing budget.
"We like to think of it as the Winners of high fashion," said Grattan. "It's all brand-new stuff. It's not a discount store. West Island women are smart. They want quality, brand-name items and they get it for peanuts," she said.
You need shoes? Bondaruk is the shoe expert, with a wide variety of current and last year's styles at prices you probably didn't think were possible.
"When someone comes in to buy a pair of shoes here, they can usually leave here with three pairs for what they would pay for one pair in a retail store," said Bondaruk.
The West Island Closet Divas – that's what they call themselves – seem to be having as good a time working together as customers have when the walk into the store.
`Very rarely do women walk in here and walk out. They spend, on average, about a half an hour at a time. They`ll try on boots and shoes, scarves and jewelry. So if they came in for a pair of shoes, maybe they`ll see a couture piece they like, or a bracelet, or some earrings," Bondaruk said.
Most clients return quickly, with friends in tow, because the prices are so good, Brzezinski said.
"It's a treasure hunt, no question," she said. "Except (the treasure's) not so hidden anymore."
The best part, Bondaruk said, is that with each partner's specialty filling some need in the women's fashion spectrum, it's a "one-stop shop," for clients.
"We can dress you from head to toe for a fraction of the cost," she said.
The co-op can be found at 203 Hymus Blvd., suite 203 in Pointe Claire, near the intersection of Hymus and St. John's boulevards.