COLUMBIA, SC — From the time that Carol Doonan visited fab’rik in Atlanta four years ago, she thought the boutique’s shopping experience – complete with mimosas and modest price tags – would be great for Columbia.
“I just never dreamed at that point that I would be the one who would be able to give it a shot,” she said.
In March, Doonan opened the Midlands’ first fab’rik women’s clothing store in Forest Acres’ Trenholm Plaza at the corner of Forest Drive and Trenholm Road.
There, she hopes to recreate the environment that she experienced with her daughter on that shopping trip four years ago.
“There was a comfortable, warm, inviting, sort of come-as-you-are feel to the store,” she said. “It’s been sort of a mission to deliver that ultimate customer service without that sticker shock.”
Each item in the store costs less than $100, except designer denim, and inventory comes in twice a week, she said.
“It’s always changing,” Doonan said. “We only get six of an item.”
Doonan has found a spot in retailing that is growing rapidly.
In the past couple of years, Ann Taylor Loft, Jos. A. Bank and the Gwen Rawls shoe store have opened in Trenholm Plaza. In the coming year, the Columbia area’s first J.Crew, Anthropologie and Scout & Molly’s also will open in the shopping center.
Being part of that thriving retail scene will help drive traffic to all of the stores, Doonan said. “People will come to shop; it helps the area.”
Doonan might never have opened the store if her son hadn’t sold his Zoe’s Kitchen franchises back to that company. She had been working for him full time as an office manager, bookkeeper and human resources representative.
“I was about to turn 50, and I was going to need to look for a job again,” she said.
Over the past few years, she had kept fab’rik on her radar. So she started a franchise application, hoping she would be able to put the store in Trenholm Plaza, which is owned by Edens, a major East Coast shopping center developer based in Columbia.
Around the time she signed her franchise agreement, Bumble Boutique announced it was closing its doors. And Edens, which was familiar with fab’rik because it has a store in another one of its centers in Atlanta, signed off on Doonan’s dream location in her longtime home of Forest Acres.
Doonan’s shop – which has five employees and is open seven days a week – features a range of items. Most shoes cost from $18 to $56 a pair. She stocks more tops – averaging $28 to $42 – than skirts and dresses – averaging $38 to $88. And she has a range of jewelry and other accessories.
“I had just always had a love for this type of thing,” she said.
Like the Atlanta store she first visited, Doonan’s shop offers complimentary beverages – mimosas, beer, wine, Coke, Diet Coke and bottled water – to shoppers.
And also like that first experience in Atlanta, Doonan said she enjoys watching the shoppers discover fab’rik.
“It’s been so much fun for me to watch these moms and daughters sort of trickle in,” she said. “They’re having fun, and they, too, have found something new.”