Downtown entrepreneurs fight recession with innovation

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Holli Showalter is expanding the number of services available at Tejon Tan.

Holli Showalter is expanding the number of services available at Tejon Tan.

As the anemic national and local economies have forced many retailers to shutter doors or file for bankruptcy, a few entrepreneurs have turned to creative and innovative solutions for staying afloat and expanding operations.

Take Holli Showalter and Kelly Bolan, for instance.

Showalter, owner of Tejon Tan, and Bolan, an esthetician who formerly operated “Nyla” on Bijou Street, have joined forces in the Tejon Tan space at 101 N. Tejon St., Suite 110 (the storefront actually faces Kiowa Street, though).

“Kelly was a client of mine at Tejon Tan and I was a client of hers at Nyla,” Showalter said. “We started talking and came up with the idea of sharing space, so I invited her over.”

Both couldn’t be happier about the arrangement.

“It’s challenging to operate business downtown,” Showalter said. “I’m in business to make a profit and I have sacrificed everything to, in essence, buy myself a job. But I’m passionate about what I do and Kelly is passionate about what she does.”

The arrangement has brought about expanded services for Tejon Tan. Showalter has offered tanning beds and stand-up tanning rooms for the past three years. She also offers customized air-brush tanning using a skin-tanning solution. Bolan specializes in skin waxing, specifically Brazilian waxing.

“What sets her apart is she makes the waxing experience fun and interesting and she does the Brazilian in such a way that the customer experiences less discomfort,” Showalter said.

Visitors to Tejon Tan also will find 10 tanning rooms, most themed around local bars, which Showalter initiated following another brainstorming session.

In what she termed a “cross-promotion” campaign, she invited neighboring bar owners to design a room at Tejon Tan based on the theme of their establishments. So, Tejon Tan has tanning rooms representing Tony’s, The Underground, Old Chicago, Cowboys, 13 Pure, SODO, Oscars and V Bar.

“When people walk into the Tony’s room for example, it looks like Tony’s, with Green Bay Packers logos and things you can only see at Tony’s,” Showalter said. “We also provide coupons for the bars for our customers and they provide coupons for our business at their places.”

With a background in marketing and advertising, Showalter naturally has a mind for creating new ideas, but she’s adamant when saying her ideas have come out of necessity. From her perspective, media advertising rates have become cost prohibitive to small businesses.

“I don’t understand how any small business can survive,” she said. “I want to advertise, but I don’t want to stick it to my clients. This way (cross promoting) allows us to advertise through other businesses, and I think everybody should cross market and work with each other. We need to help each other so that we can keep our prices low, retain our customers and stay in business.”

Showalter soon will begin working with downtown shoppers on a marketing idea centered on designer denim. Customers will be able to rent a pair of high-end jeans from designers such as Rock and Republic, True Religion, Joe Jeans and Seven for All Mankind for $10 an evening.

Showalter was careful to mention that the new venture is not a consignment program. Women can offer their high-end jeans ($200 and up) to Tejon Tan for rent to others, but they’ll maintain ownership. Showalter and Bolan will make sure every pair is authentic, then handle the storage, cleaning and renting.

“It works the same way a RedBox (video rental) works,” Showalter said. “Customers provide their debit card when they pick up the jeans, then the corresponding charge is applied when they return them to us.”

Tejon Tan has checked in roughly 30 pairs of designer jeans so far, and Showalter and Bolan have purchased a sanitizing wash for their rentals.

“If that’s not enough to keep us in business, we both have also gone mobile (air-brush tanning and Brazilian waxing),” Showalter said. “Kelly has my back at the store when I go on air-brush appointments.”

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

3 Responses to Downtown entrepreneurs fight recession with innovation

  1. Scott – great article. As a former retailer (department store buyer back in the day), I love the innovative things the two business folks are doing with the Tejon Tan space, such as cross promotion and having local bar owners design a room … brilliant! I love downtown and it pleases me to see two local business folks adding to the vibrancy of the area.

    Rosanne Gain
    September 4, 2009 at 10:59 am

  2. smart holli ! it did not say anything about being a plumber though !!! lol

    September 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm

  3. I love downtown, but has anyone noticed how the small retail shops are slowly being pushed north and eventually out? This weekend at a Downtown Partnership sponsored event there were twenty restaurants involved and only a handful of retail stores that remain almost devoid of customers.

    As a retail owner it makes no sense to have a business downtown any longer. Check out Old Colorado City or Manitou on any given weekend and compare it to the wasteland that is Colorado Springs Downtown. It’s such a absolute shame!

    It’s no secret that both the city and the Downtown Partnership are trying to move out all retail and move the clubs, restaurants , and bars. Having lived in Colorado Springs my entire life its such a shame to see downtown slowly being destroyed by those that claim to support it.

    Ton Avila
    September 14, 2009 at 8:17 am