It didn’t take Phoebe Schmidt very long to notice something strange about Colorado Springs.
Upon moving from New York City five years ago, she went on a shopping spree with her sister in-law for western boots. What they found was disappointing: nothing but boots in black and brown.
Now Schmidt, a sophisticated shopper, knew Colorado Springs’ women were missing out. So she decided to open a store. She launched Girl of the Golden West, a high-end women’s western wear store, during the winter of 2006.
In an effort to take advantage of tourist traffic, Schmidt has moved the store from the Promenade Shops at Briargate to downtown Manitou Springs, where she’ll open this week.
“The rent is less expensive and we can set our own hours,” Schmidt said. “We’re a destination shop now, and what I’m trying to do is provide a western experience. And I like Manitou Springs …. It reminds me of where I come from (Greenwich Village). I like the idea of pedestrian shopping experience, so I feel at home here.”
Although the store has a western theme, Schmidt makes it clear that the theme is filtered through her east-coast sensibilities.
“Right now, I’m wearing pink cowboy boots,” she said. “We also carry snakeskin, hair-on-hide and tooled leather boots at the shop. I didn’t expect women in the area to notice where I’m coming from, but I’ve been surprised. Women here have lived a lot of places, they are more sophisticated than they’re given credit for — and they are interested in high-quality stuff.”
Manitou’s western heritage provides some authenticity and Schmidt plans on playing up the town’s legacy.
“Generally I think our theme is Ralph Lauren meets Teddy Roosevelt,” Schmidt said. “Manitou Springs put itself on the map as a summer resort between 1890 and 1914, so one thing I’m looking forward to is partnering with local libraries and museums. We’re just having a ball reinterpreting the western theme.”
At 110A Canon Ave., Girl of the Golden West is taking over 2,500 square feet formerly occupied by Adam’s Mountain Café and, more recently, Jake’s at the Peak. Schmidt, who employs five part-time workers, said business has been good, but she has had to use store receipts to buy inventory.
“What I really want is for some banks to cooperate with us and give me a line of credit,” she said. We’re bootstrapping ourselves, because nobody is lending — at least not to us.”
Despite a lagging economy, she expects Girl of the Golden West to be profitable during the next year.
“It’s taken two or three years to get going, for word of mouth to spread,” she said.
The town also has welcomed a new restaurant, Coquette Creperie, which opened Aug. 21 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at 915 Manitou Ave.
Owner Michelle Marx has partnered with her daughter and son in-law, Turu and Hiram Fleites, on the venture.
The trio had considered a restaurant venture for more than two years before taking the plunge this summer.
Turu has managed a few of L.A.’s trendier restaurants and Marx, who grew up behind the counter of New York’s J.G. Melons, still maintains part ownership in the restaurant.
Coquette Creperie will offer gluten-free crepes, paninis, salads, quiches, espressos and New York style creams and pastries. Veteran Colorado Springs chef Leigh Ann Kirk, formerly of Shuga’s, Adam’s Mountain Café and Marigolds, has joined the team as well.
Michael’s has strong quarter
Art’s and craft’s specialty retailer Michael’s posted a net profit of $2 million for its second quarter of 2009. The news marks a significant turnaround for the chain, which turned a $6 million profit for the first half of the year, compared to a $50 million loss for the first half of 2008.
Michael’s operates stores on North Academy Boulevard, Southgate Road and Powers Boulevard in Colorado Springs.
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.