Lancaster boutique owner opens second location, sets sights on fashion line
Nicole Vasquez remembers when the block around 147 E. King St. in Lancaster was little more than empty storefronts and sidewalks.
"For about five to six years, Lancaster has really evolved from what it was when I was growing up," Vasquez, 29, said. "There was literally nothing here when I grew up downtown."
"I've seen the redevelopment of this whole block."
As the owner of That Shuu Girl boutique, Vasquez is proud to say she's played a role in that revitalization. Her women's clothing and accessories store has been open for about five and a half years, and now she is dressing up another block in Lancaster. On Sept. 1, she opened Nicole Taylor Boutique at 325 N. Queen St.
"I feel it shows my growth as a woman and as a business owner," she said. "It's catering more to your working professional, a woman who knows her style. It's more classic pieces and not as trendy. I feel like that's where I'm at in my life. I know my style. I know what I like."
From DIY to downtown Lancaster
Fashion has long been a part of Vasquez's life. Her mother was a plus size model, and Vasquez and her sister designed and sewed their own clothes in high school.
"I would take old pieces and make them into something new," she said. "I would turn jeans into a skirt or a shirt from long-sleeved to short-sleeved and add patches. A lot of people started taking notice of that in high school, so my friends and family would come to my house and raid my closet."
After high school, Vasquez entered the nursing field and worked at various health care facilities, mainly rehabilitation centers. While she loved the profession, she felt like something was missing in her heart.
She had often expressed her dream of opening a fashion boutique to her fiance and partner of 10 years, Jabron Taylor.
While Vasquez worked long shifts as a nurse, Taylor had started scoping out locations to help Vasquez pursue her goal. One day, after Vasquez was recovering from a 16-hour workday, Taylor told her to get ready to go out for dinner.
The couple walked down to East King Street, during which Vasquez said, "but there's not restaurants around this way." There were however, empty storefronts, one of which would become That Shuu Girl.
"The landlord was outside waiting," she said. "As soon as I came into this (space), I thought, 'This is my store. I want this store. It's going to be mine.'"
'it's a relationship'
For two years, Vasquez worked full-time as a nurse and ran her boutique, until making the jump to a full-time retailer. Just like the neighborhood has evolved, so, too, has the shop.
"When we opened we thought our customer was your high schooler or freshman in college,' she said. "After we were open for about a year or two, we noticed that our customers were college students close to graduating to women in their 40s."
The merchandise at That Shuu Girl is produced by independent designers, some local. Vasquez aims to stock mostly made-in-America goods.
Nicole Taylor Boutique will feature more classic clothing designed for the working woman's wardrobe, like a white blouse that matches every skirt in her closet, or the tailored slacks that transition with ease from day to night. The name of the shop represents Vasquez's vision for her future: one day, she hopes to design and produce her own fashion line.
Additionally, Nicole Taylor Boutique will offer style consultations and personal shopper services to help women who don't like to shop or don't have the time.
Vasquez sells merchandise online at thatshuugirl.biz, but she's confident in the staying power of brick and mortar.
"I don't really shop online that much because my body is shaped differently," she said. "I feel like people want to come in and try clothes on. It's the reaction you get with the business owner or whoever is in that store. Online you're just clicking, 'I Like that. I don't like that,' and you get something and you never know if it's going to fit you.
"I feel like it's not going to die down," she said of brick-and-mortar retail. "It's that personal interaction. You get catered to when you come into a small boutique. It's a relationship. You don't have that online."
A platform to help others
Vasquez loves being a business owner, especially one rooted in downtown Lancaster.
"I don't feel like I've worked a day since I've been here," she said. "I've met so many wonderful women, men and children. I get involved a lot with my community from opening this store."
For example, last spring, Vasquez held a prom gown drive at the store to help local teenagers who could not afford to purchase their own. The dresses were free, and she also worked with local hair and makeup artists to offer free beauty services the day of prom.
"We had probably 100 different dresses," she said. "There was one in particular that a girl loved, and her mom asked, 'How much are these dresses? Are you renting them?' We told her, 'No, they're free. You can pick whatever you want and we're doing free hair and makeup.'"
The mother was brought to tears and explained her husband had cancer, and they were debating whether to get one of his medications or to have their daughter go to prom.
"I love giving back to my community and being that I have this store, it's a platform for me to help everyone - local designers who don't have a store and want to showcase their talent to helping women and their children," she said. "That's what I love about having this store."