After two years of operating an e-commerce site and temporary pop-up shops, BlackBear Children’s Boutique has taken the plunge into the local brick and mortar market.
The Milwaukee-based children’s clothing retailer last month took over a 1,000-square-foot storefront at 4312 N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood. The space previously housed Get Dolled Up hair salon, which continues to operate a location in Bay View.
BlackBear’s grand opening is set for Saturday, Oct. 26, but the store softly opened this week as owner Emme Carollo puts finishing touches on the space.
This is not her first run at brick and mortar.
From June to August last summer she operated a pop-up shop on Downer Avenue on Milwaukee’s East Side, which gave customers a more sensory-driven experience when browsing the high-end baby and children’s clothing and accessories, she said.
And, as she had hoped, the move increased sales and drove foot traffic. Opening a permanent store was a natural next step.
“I think it was so successful because having a brick and mortar helps people see that you’re here and I think people want to support local, so they can see the space and touch and feel the items,” said Carollo.
A physical location is also more convenient for older shoppers who may not be online or have access to the internet, she said. Many of BlackBear’s customers happen to be grandparents.
“I found that people really loved, especially shopping for children’s clothing, shopping in person verses online, at lease to get a feel for the clothing,” she said. “Once they’re comfortable, I think online works as well, but in terms of getting new customer and people finding you, it helps to have a store.”
Customers who shop BlackBear’s e-commerce site can enjoy free in-store pick up, Carollo said.
A Shorewood resident and native herself, Carollo has high hopes for business in a neighborhood with lots of families and schools. And parts of North Oakland Avenue have seen a recent resurgence of shops, restaurants and new development.
Carollo plans to partner with other surrounding retailers to host events for the upcoming holiday season.
BlackBear’s grand opening event will take place Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.