Claudene Lockridge takes pride in being a good hostess to her customers, offering them glasses of sparkling apple cider as they enter her shop. Inside, bright overhead lights gleam off metal racks holding jackets, purses, shoes and a variety of clothing as soft rhythm and blues plays in the background.
“I love shoes, I love fashion,” she said. “It’s just a point of getting the community to know I’m here.”
Her store, Inspirational Boutique, sells high-end women’s clothing and accessories at a reasonable price, and will be celebrating its one-year anniversary on Nov. 13.
Located in north Minneapolis off West Broadway Avenue, the boutique is in an area where many residents lack vehicles or other means of easy transportation, Lockridge said, so having a local store like the Inspirational Boutique is important to the neighborhood — especially one that caters to African-American women.
“A lot of the churches around here, African-American churches, they have what you call ‘Hat Days,’” Lockridge said. “So, I’ve sold quite a few hats.”
She even sold one local customer a wedding dress earlier last year, she said.
Ann Lockridge, Claudene’s sister, said she usually shops at off-price retailers like Burlington Coat Factory, but since Inspirational Boutique opened she’s had no need to go elsewhere. “It’s closer to my home, she has many styles of clothes, so why go to Burlington?” she said. “[Claudene] is doing a fabulous job, and not just because she’s my sister.”
Coffy Moss said she also likes that the boutique is so close to her home and has shopped there twice since the place opened. But more importantly, she said, the store sells the style of clothing she’s looking for and she feels comfortable shopping there. “I like what’s in here,” she said. “There’s a lot of quality stuff.”
But it’s not just locals shopping at Inspirational Boutique. Out-of-towners are noticing the store, too. Carolyn Manley lives in Brooklyn Park but comes down to Inspirational Boutique once or twice a month just to check out its unique selection. “You’re not going to walk into another boutique, or any other store, and find this kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s all different.”
Lockridge hasn’t always been in the retail business. She recently retired from Minneapolis Public Schools, where she worked as a behavioral specialist for 25 years. And she said she still wanted to work with youth in the neighborhood. So her boutique also acts as a hub for teenage girls to come hang out, work on their homework, or just have something to do in a safe environment while school is out, Lockridge said. “It’s just a joy for me to give back to the girls,” she said.
It’s still her first year, so the store hasn’t seen any profit yet, Lockridge said, but she has faith her margins will turn in the black over the next couple years.
Ann Lockridge said she has faith in her sister, too, and is proud of how far her shop has come. “She is very determined,” she said of her sister. “I think this is going to be one of the boutiques of northside Minneapolis.”