Cathy Sidlowski, owner of Freesia in Fell’s Point, says that her store sells clothing “for women who don’t want to look like the grandmother, but also don’t want to look like the teen daughter.”
The store, at 1643 Thames St., just west of the Broadway Pier, has been open about a month.
“The reaction I’ve had from customers has been overwhelming,” she said. “’I’m so glad you’re here,’ ‘This is just what I need,’—that sort of thing.”
The space is boutique-style without being overly minimalist or too gaudy. A large, circular carpet in the open front area invites customers to check out the shoes against one wall. The narrower, rectangular space toward the back accomodates racks of clothes.
Right now, Sidlowski said, Freesia is carrying “a little bit of everything”—career clothes, dresses, athletic wear, evening wear. She’s also carrying “one or two lines that are kind of unusual.” She displays a dark dress with a cowl/loose turtleneck collar of subtly quilted material.
“Women never want to look cookie-cutter,” Sidlowski explains. “They want something that speaks to a style they have or want to have.”
She displays another line, some fitted button-up shirts with subtle detailing on the plackets and collars.
Sidlowski, who ran a general contracting business with her husband for 30 years, says she had been thinking about opening a women’s clothing store “off and on for about five years.”
She did her homework.
“I kind of started studying boutiques that I liked,” she said. “Without reinventing the wheel, I realized that there were models out there for me to follow.”
Sidlowski has some go-to shops in the Outer Banks—her vacation spot—that sell non-tourist clothes.
“I was buying spring and fall clothing, and bringing it home with me,” she says. “I found out that other women were doing the same thing.”
Sidlowski learned about wholesaling, or buying clothing for her store.
“The wholesale in Atlanta is probably closest to what most Baltimore women want,” she says.
In her research, she looked into Miami, Dallas, and New York. New York had a high price point, and the product was “maybe a little more avant-garde than some customers are comfortable with.”
Atlanta, though, “has a sense of being cosmopolitan and fashion-forward, but affordable.”
Freesia values customer feedback.
“I’m listening to what (customers) say, and taking it seriously,” says Sidlowski.
A Fell’s Point resident herself, Sidlowski says that the several boutique stores in the area enhance each other.
“Contrary to what you would think, more stores and more competition is good for everybody,” she says. “If there’s just one store, people wouldn’t bother coming down.”
In the midst of her interview with the Guide, Sidlowski refers a couple of women looking for shoes to Poppy and Stella’s, illustrating her point.
by Erik Zygmont