MY BIZ

Clothing business opened in NewBo building owned by entrepreneur's parents

Dot + Dash Boutique stays close to 'home'

Store owner Ashleigh Derby’s two shop dogs rest on a sofa at Dot and Dash Boutique in The Depot building in New Bohemia in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. The new boutique offers clothing and accessories. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Store owner Ashleigh Derby’s two shop dogs rest on a sofa at Dot and Dash Boutique in The Depot building in New Bohemia in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. The new boutique offers clothing and accessories. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A new Cedar Rapids women’s clothing store is keeping things in the family.

Ashleigh Derby opened Dot + Dash Boutique on May 9 in a building owned by her parents, Scott and Ronda Derby, who operate businesses of their own in the same building. All three, along with Ashleigh’s husband, also reside in the five-story building, occupying two condos on the top floor.

It was the Derbys’ desire to make more efficient use of their space that led to the family’s most recent business venture.

After the Derbys purchased Building Two in the Depot, a mixed-use development in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia District, Ronda Derby moved her hair salon supply business, Solair Beauté Concepts, to the building’s first floor.

Among other wholesale customers, Solair serves Salon Lofts on 12th, another Derby family business, which leases salon space on the second and third floors of the building to independent salon operators.

But the street-level commercial space was more than what the salon distributor needed, said Ashleigh, who has served as Solair’s vice president of sales since the business opened in 2012.

“We only sell to licensed professionals,” she said. “But we have this storefront with lots of foot traffic going by every day. We needed a better use of the space.”

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About 18 months ago, the Derbys began toying with the idea of opening a women’s clothing boutique in the building’s storefront.

To accommodate the new business, they would move Solair’s product displays to a large interior room, which was used for occasional beauty professional education classes but otherwise sat mostly empty.

At the beginning of the year, Ashleigh Derby decided to get the ball rolling, with the hopes of having a boutique open in the August time frame.

“I went to the Chicago market (clothing trade show) in April, and everything was going so seamlessly we were able to open in May,” she said.

Dot + Dash Boutique sells trendy but affordable women’s clothing, Derby said, along with some jewelry, accessories, sandals and candles.

“Also, I don’t order a lot of one item, just a select few. When they’re gone, I most likely won’t reorder but will look for something new and different.”

With her background in wholesale, Derby said she had to learn a lot to make the transition to a retail business.

“The biggest learning curve for me was the amount of options available,” she said. “The number of clothing brands is overwhelming.”

But more options bring greater flexibility.

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“In the hair care business, you partner with one brand for years,” Derby noted. “Retail is more laid back. A partnership with a clothing company is on me for however long I like. But I never have to buy from them again.”

Because she continues to work full-time for Solair, Dot + Dash is open on a regular basis only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with some limited hours on Thursdays and Saturdays as announced.

With no employees at the store, Ashleigh gets a lot of help from her mother and husband.

“It’s a very family-run company,” she said.

• Know a business that might make an interesting “My Biz” feature? Let us know via michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

• Owner: Ashleigh Derby

• Business: Dot + Dash Boutique

• Address: 420 12th Ave. SE, Suite 100, Cedar Rapids

• Phone: (319) 859-8839

• Website: dotanddashboutique.com

• Facebook: DotandDashBoutique

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.