Following the news of veteran special occasion retailer Dugo, Roe Wolfe, another locally-owned Galleria boutique, announced it will also close its doors at the luxury shopping center.
Owner Ashley Kilcher opened her first iteration of the women’s fashion and cosmetics boutique in 2012 in Mendota Heights. She’s since grown and taken it to two North Loop locations, and later on to a pop-up at Galleria. After a proof of concept, she opened a bigger, better Roe in the center’s new(ish) expansion wing.
But for Kilcher, the impacts of the pandemic have been too detrimental on business as the women’s fashion category continues taking a significant hit. “We’ve been mulling on it for a few months now, and there’s just no end in sight to the current situation, we just had to make a choice.”
Last spring, Kilcher and her team quickly pivoted and started hosting virtual shopping events in the boutique as a way to navigate a new retail landscape, highlight new arrivals, and provide styling tips and tricks for customers looking to shop at a distance. “The response was positive and once we reopened, loyal customers showed up every week to buy something—even if they didn’t need it—because they wanted us to survive,” says Kilcher, of the outpouring of support. “But that can only get you so far.”
The shop refocused its assortment and transitioned heavily into more lounge wear—knits, sweats, sneakers, and other “Covid-chic” wardrobe staples, but the novelty wore off. “Most of us bought all of our sweats in the first three months of the pandemic and now we are over it.”
Despite plenty of encouragement to take her ‘biz online, Kilcher’s decided it’s not where her heart is. “We are closing our doors keeping our dream in-tact,” she says. “Roe Wolfe’s mission has always been about creating a positive, creative, uplifting environment for customers and employees alike. I never wanted to be an online store, and it was clear that in the current environment, that was the direction we would need to head to survive.”
According to Kilcher, the Galleria has been nothing but supportive and accommodating during these unprecedented months. “Coming into Galleria wasn’t even something on my radar,” says Kilcher. “I never considered myself Galleria caliber. I was just a little mom and pop shop and the fact that they gave me this opportunity has been amazing.”
Over the summer Kilcher co-created a new side hustle in tandem with local stylist and producer Grant Whittaker, called The Virtualist Co., a virtual boutique-shopping and consultation service designed to support locally owned boutiques and meet the customers where they are. “We had a great jump off point and answered a need in that moment, but I think it’s going to evolve,” says Kilcher about its future.
As for what she’ll do next? Kilcher would love to continue fueling her passion for helping small businesses in the community—be it consulting or events. (In October, The Virtualist partnered with fashion designer and entrepreneur Houston White to host a “100 percent pop up” to showcase and support local Black-owned brands).
“Of course, I’d love to stay in fashion,” she says. “But here we are, taking all of the lessons that 2020 has taught us and waiting to see what is behind the next door.”
Kilcher anticipates closing early 2021—official date TBD. Until then, shop the farewell sale, starting Wednesday, January 13. Galleria Edina, roewolfe.com, @roe_wolfe