Ronald and Kristen French, owners of red E — a boutique in Elmhurst — describe the store as “luxury boutique.” Kristen, 30, is a personal stylist for her customers and Ron takes care of the financial side of the company.
The couple opened the store in 2004 with the goal of making a profit after three years. They ended up making a profit in the first year and said since then, things have only been improving.
“We’ve met most of our goals. We paid off our loan in two years which was amazing,” Ron said.
Ron, 31, said they made the right choice when choosing a location. Even though the two of them live on the Northside of Chicago, they decided to locate in the southwest suburb of Elmhurst.
“I think we were very fortunate to choose Elmhurst; this felt right,” he said. He talked about how Elmhurst is right in the middle of all the affluent suburbs, but the store still grabs customers from downtown.
“Our next phase is online,” Ron said. “I think with the online site we would gain customers from all over the country.”
They’re focusing on opening an online website through Ecomerse.com.
They also launched a second store, E lounge, in 2009. “Our company is growing every month,” Ron said. “Sales are increasing and we’re gaining new customers.”
When opening the stores, Ron said he had a well-planned budget and forecast. “I did my research on demographics, and I understand the current market that we’re in,” he said.
Although Ron has things under control, he said the stores get very busy around the holiday season. “You’re spending a lot of money on inventory. All your money is placed outside of the store.”
He said all he can do is hope that sales are going to balance out.
Prior to owning a store, Ron worked with his father in sporting goods. “I was doing the business side of things,” he said.
Ron said it was Kristen’s dream to have her own store. He said she worked in retail for eight years with corporate department stores and got tired of the bureaucracy.
“So we decided to join forces,” he said.
When describing the merchandise the stores offer, he used the term “business professional.”
“We’re more in the luxury market, and our customers have not been affected by the economic state,” he said.
Ron said the recession has not changed anything in the store. They haven’t had to change prices of merchandise. He described his clients as having a lot more disposable income, and they’re not affected by the highs and lows of a general marketplace.
“Our customers travel all over the world, so they recognize the designers we’re bringing into Elmhurst,” he said. The couple’s main focus is to travel abroad, look for trends and bring them home. They want Western designers, he said.
“We get new clothes in everyday and we usually never have clothes we don’t sell,” he said.
“Most of these looks you don’t see unless you’re in Paris or Milan. I think that’s an advantage,” he said.
Two doors away from red E is another boutique. Ron said he’s not worried because they’re in a different market, but it’s nice to keep a downtown feel with lots of businesses on all sides.
Two frequent customers are mother and daughter, Shanley Pisellini and Maureen Luke. They’re residents of Elmhurst and said they always find what they’re looking for at red E.
“It’s not your typical shopping mall attire; you find something unique,” Luke said.
They agree that most shoppers wouldn’t expect red E to have a large selection since they are so small, but they find the selection a lot broader than department stores. “That’s why we go there; [Kristen] has different merchandise,” Pisellini said.
Pisellini talked about how her grandmother can go to red E and find something she will love. “Everyone I know can walk into the store and find something,” she said.
“For instance, I like biker looking styles and they have that, but they also have clean lines for my daughter,” Luke said. They both said when they leave the store they have that perfect outfit they were looking for.
Ron and Kristen said they have devoted many hours and taken many trips to other countries to give their customers that city chic boutique feel and the clients have noticed.