A short drive down U.S. 50 West, a few turns and a couple stop signs will bring you to a gravel road. At the end of that gravel road is the site of Jefferson City's newest "basement boutique."
It's called that because that's exactly what it is — a boutique in a basement.
French Dressing Boutique was opened by mother-daughter team Robin Fankhauser and Morgan French.
Originally from Texas, the family moved to Jefferson City about 10 years ago. French went to college in Joplin, where she met her husband, Cameron French. The first thoughts of this business began then, before it was really a true idea.
"In college, people would always steal my clothes and wear my clothes, and I jokingly would say, 'I'm going to marry Cameron, and I'm going to open a business and call it French Dressing,' kind of as a joke, not ever being serious," French said.
That joke has become a reality.
After college, the Frenches moved around, living in several places. Fankhauser wanted to know when her daughter and grandchildren were coming back home to Jefferson City. Partly in order to make that happen, she suggested they really start French Dressing.
An unfinished basement used for storage at Fankhauser's home was renovated and is now a small boutique space, complete with a dressing room. Floral wallpaper, decorative artwork and a few mannequins pull together the boutique vibe.
While some may question the idea to open the store in the basement of the home instead of a traditional storefront, a homey feel was exactly what French wanted.
"We wanted to have a way where people were comfortable; that was the biggest thing," French said.
Part of that was giving plus-size women a comfortable place to shop where they don't feel any judgment or anxiety, something French said she has struggled with at department stores and malls.
"I wanted to make a way for people to sort of marry online shopping from the comfort of your own home and shopping at a department store — styles that are in, but in the comfort of a home," French said. "It's a way for women to feel confident, to come into somebody's home and feel welcomed."
The store offers clothing in sizes small to 3X, along with shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Between the two of them, they hope to offer a diverse array of styles and collections.
"We listen to people and what they want," Fankhauser said. "We spend a lot of time picking out and hand-selecting pieces."
They hope to create a reputation and trust with customers and use that to help them explore other fashion options, too.
They also are keeping their prices low. French said it's more about what they can provide to women than making money.
Because of their unique business model and outside responsibilities, they don't have traditional open store hours yet. However, they host a shopping night 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Thursday where people are invited to explore the store and drink wine. Otherwise, they are open by appointment for now.
The boutique has another unique offering — a massage chair that shoppers can use, tucked away in a lowly lit room to provide relaxation.
The pair hopes to continue growing the brand online through Facebook, where French Dressing currently provides some online shopping. However, as of right now, they don't have any plans to leave the home environment.
"To welcome people into a home, I think, is a really special thing," French said.
You can find French Dressing Boutique to see products and book appointments on Facebook.
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