Growing up in York County, Zarah Brooks always admired how people expressed themselves through their clothes and unique sense of fashion. She loved going into the shops of downtown York as much as she enjoyed shopping trips to nearby cities such as New York City and Philadelphia.
So when she was a senior at York College, Brooks began to think about what she really wanted to do as she finished her degree in public relations.
The answer was the same as it always had been: open a women’s clothing boutique. And do it in downtown York.
“I wanted to bring up-and-coming fashion trends from the bigger cities to York,” she said.
But when you are 23 years old, pursuing such a dream doesn’t seem very practical.
Brooks decided to take a leap of faith. She surrounded herself with people who inspired her, and talked with other downtown business owners to learn the ins and outs of what it would take to make her dream a reality.
In July 2014, just two months after graduation, she opened Indigo Bleu on West Philadelphia Street in downtown York, in the midst of the city’s downtown revitalization efforts.
“I was young, my parents were 100 percent supportive and I didn’t have much to lose,” she said. “I realized that I can’t let my age keep me from pursuing my dream.”
She attended buying shows in the big cities and connected with brands she personally enjoyed wearing. Then she found an eclectic, industrial and bohemian space to match the style of her merchandise, and began the process of trial and error.
“I took it day by day, learning what it takes,” she said. “I had to learn what people want and what will sell. You might think one thing will fly off the racks, but it doesn’t. It can kind of be a guessing game as far as what is going to be hot that season.”
Brooks said she has always been attracted to effortless and whimsical clothing like Anthropologie and Free People, but such brands can be expensive.
“I wanted people to be able to come in and find really cool pieces like that that are great quality and more affordable,” she said.
She orders small quantities of each piece so her customers know their clothing will be unique. The response has been encouraging, and Brooks was pleased when Indigo Bleu was nominated for the York Daily Record’s Best of York County roundup for the past two years.
“I think people in York want something different; something they won’t find at a mall and that everyone else has,” she said. “When a customer raves about her outfit, I get such satisfaction in knowing that I made someone feel beautiful.”
A year into the venture, Brooks opened an online shop to reach more people and learned there is a lot more that goes into making an online business successful than she ever thought. In the future, Brooks said she would like to open more locations of her store.
“I am really thankful to have people to go to and get answers from,” she said. “I think for someone who is young, it’s important not to let your age stop you from pursuing your dreams, but at the same time, you can’t go in with the attitude that you know everything, because you don’t. Ask questions, and surround yourself with people who inspire you.”