Nearing the first anniversary of her fashion boutique on Orange Avenue, DOLLIE Style and Accessories owner Dolly Catlin expresses both surprise and relief at the shop’s success approaching the holidays.
“It’s a new business, but it’s been really steady,” she says. “I’ve built a good client base, with many repeat customers.”
A former buyer for Nordstrom, Catlin started DOLLIE at the beginning of 2018 after assembling a collection of high-quality handbags from industry shows and online sites. A friend suggested throwing a party to sell them; she found instant success. From there, her love of buying fashionable clothes and accessories blossomed into the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar store. Spotting an empty corner at the front of Nail Studio Coronado, which also houses a wine bar, she approached the owner with the idea of adding a little shopping to the overall spa experience.
“We’ve made it into a place where women can come in and have their nails done, sip a glass of wine, do a little browsing for a gift for themselves or a friend,” she explains. “We want women to be able to totally spoil themselves.”
Since setting up shop in the salon Catlin has enhanced her handbag collection with items of clothing, scarves and jewelry. To purvey the latter she works with her brother, a jewelry designer who owns several top-notch stores in Palm Desert. In addition, after experimenting with various price points and quality levels of handbags, she discovered her clientele overwhelmingly wanted only high-end purses. Thus, she’s altered her sights to focus solely on brands like Hammitt, Rebecca Minkoff and Botkier.
“I stay within what I think is pretty classy, but it can also be expensive; financially, in the beginning, I just leaped in,” Catlin says. “But you have to take risks, you have to spend money to buy good products you love. If you don’t, but if that’s what your clients want, you’re not going to sell anything.”
As her business picked up over the months, Catlin has also forged local partnerships that add unique touches to her services. She provides gift-wrapping options with accessories from Seaside Papery in Coronado, she expanded her home storage space into the nearby Rite Aid building, and part of her proceeds go to the Coronado Schools Foundation. She also delivers purchases anywhere in Coronado.
“Some of my clients will message me and say, ‘I want 10 gifts, here’s my price point,’ and now I can put that together, wrapped, and take everything to them,” she says.
For the upcoming holidays, the shop is offering a selection of items, such as scarves, already wrapped and ready to give. Another “grab-and-go” promotion she’s found success with is a “pet care” gift package for dog-lovers. In addition, she hosts shopping events that attract both foot traffic and virtual orders.
Catlin’s favorite part of the business as it’s grown, though, is working with her clients on a personal level. She says that she has made many new friends and formed “very dear” relationships, thanks to DOLLIE Style and Accessories.
“I have learned to be straightforward, to tell my customers what looks good and what doesn’t, and to help them find something that works,” she says. “That has built trust, which is something you must have from your clients.”
Will DOLLIE’s make changes or add new services to kick off the business’ second year? Catlin says not yet; for now she’s still in the establishment phase.
“I created my own job,” she says. “It was super-scary at the very beginning. But everyone can just go order on Amazon, so for now I want to keep my business just as it is and let people experience this type of personal service.”
Dollie Style and Accessories
Located in the Nail Studio Coronado
824 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA, 92118