Friday, August 15, 2014

An Interview with Danielle Shaffer from Aw Else Boutique

Danielle Shaffer poses with her selection of hats and a Lancaster Canvas leather bag.

by Shannon Bork
What kind of style does Aw Else Boutique specialize in?

We specialize in styles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to New York City, and we even tap into the European market. We bring them all here to give variety to accentuate any outfit or occasion, and everyday life and women.

So it’s like an international style?

It’s a little bit of everything. All of the original fashions come from Europe, and then they work their way over. Essentially, they all stem from that area, but we get them from LA, New York, and just a little bit of everywhere, so I guess you could say we’re a global style.

Where did you think of the name Aw Else?

My husband and I have a blended family. “Family comes first” is a very strong value that we have, and we try to instill that in our children. Mark’s three daughters’ initials are “AW” and my daughter’s initials are “ELS” and we just combined the two, and it turned out to be “Aw Else”. 

Do you have a favorite item on sale?

Yes, our Lancaster Canvas leather bags. It’s a newer line from Lancaster that we brought in. Lancaster Paris is kind of like the Coach of Paris. They’re very big, they’re on L Magazine, they have many stores, and they are just great. When I found them, I absolutely fell in love with the quality of the bag, and how they offer a great variety of sizes, so we brought them into the store!

What are the hot looks for the summer season?

It’s a variation on the same thing every year, and this year it was a continuation from fall. I’d say the biggest thing lately is The Wing Bag. It’s a normal style North & South bag, but they put wings on it, like triangles and it’s great.

How about for fall?

Oh, we have some great colors coming for fall. The purples and the burnt orange color that is going to be really popular, and we’ve got this great spread of fall looks and scarves, complimentary colors. The furs are coming in, not real fur but fake fur, and people are getting more into this animal print, leopards, zebra print, and these are classic looks that have always been around. But we’re bringing them in a new way, incorporating them into outfits with scarfing and different ways of using all those patterns. The colors are going to be great.

The Sorrelli Floral Crystal Cluster Ring in 'Norther Lights' is one of the lovely fall jewelry items available at Aw Else.

What are some of your favorite styles? Couture? Preppy? Bohemian?

It’s really funny; I was always told I should go into fashion, because I’m like a chameleon. One day, depending on my environment, I can literally adapt to it. I can dress bohemian, I can go casual, it just depends. I pretty much love it all; I love all kinds of fashion all the way around. I can dress to whatever’s in my environment. That’s probably what my biggest challenge is when owning a store, because there are so many different directions that I’m drawn to, and it’s hard to stick with just one. I have to shop for the customer, and their styles, but you’re also going to have some kind of love for it. And I don’t know of any ladies retailer that shops for their store and doesn’t shop for them a little, as well. 

Can you tell me a little about the history of this boutique? What made you decide to start your own business?

I started out in corporate America, working at UPS doing their hiring while loading boxes. I went into management in HR, and then I traveled. I traveled the whole United States, mainly the northeastern region for the UPS stores. That’s where I got a lot of my business background, helping to build out their locations. From there, I ended up resigning when I had my daughter because I didn’t want to travel anymore. After that I went to Kennametal, where I worked in the marketing department for about a year. At one point they laid off about 2,500 people and I was one of them. But they offered for me to go back to school, and since I’d already gotten my undergrad at Seton Hill, I decided to get my MBA there. And while I was there, they incorporated entrepreneurship as a class in the MBA program. Low and behold, Liz Marshall who is a great professor, helped me open my mind, which I had no idea that I wanted to open a ladies boutique. So before I even finished the program, I left. And I opened up a store.

So I still have some credits up there that I need to finish up. So I opened up my ladies boutique, and almost three years to the day, here we are.

Do you have a quote or a store motto?

Our tagline is always “A Ladies Boutique with a Heart.” because we do wear our hearts on our sleeves.  It’s been a long road with a lot of challenges, not just here professionally but personally. Our family has gone through a lot of losses. But one thing that we’re known for is that we are honest. We’re not here just to make a dollar; we’re here to build relationships. And truly help, in anyway, the ladies that come in here to feel ten times better than they did when they came in.

Aw Else Boutique is located at 124 South Pennsylvania Avenue, Greensburg, PA 15601. Stop by for purses, jewelry, accessories, and home decor products like candles and reed diffusers.