Maren Roth of Rowe Boutique: Your Questions Answered

Maren Roth’s love affair with clothing began at age 5 when she walked down New York City’s famed Fifth Avenue for the first time. Now, more than 25 years later, she is the proud owner of Rowe Boutique in Columbus’s Short North.

In addition to contemporary clothing, the shop −which opened in April 2007− carries accessories, shoes, handbags, and jewelry.

“Rowe serves a dedicated clientele with discerning tastes when it comes to their personal style,” Roth says.

Herewith, the Bexley native shares the questions she is asked most frequently about her educational background and her business− and her answers, of course.

1. How did you come up with the name Rowe?

If I had a a penny for everyone who asked that question! To be honest, naming my business was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had no idea how important that question would be and how much easier it would be to answer it, if the answer were nice and concise or if [the name] had some sentimental, cry-worthy meaning. I thought long and hard about the name, and a few puzzle pieces ended up fitting together to come up with the name Rowe.

My last name is Roth −although many people often think it’s Rowe, but I am happy to answer to both− so it has a bit of my last name and in the fashion industry we buy lines of clothing. Well, another word for a line is a row, so I just slapped an “e” on the end and went with Rowe. It was catchy and non gender-specific, and I loved the way it looked on my logo, so, all in all, I just loved the way the name Rowe sounded. It’s also quite easy to remember and quite hard to forget.

The best advice I can give to business owners searching for the perfect name would be to bear in mind that when you are naming your business, everyone, I mean everyone, has an opinion. So pick something that you love and that works for you and your business.

2. Did you go to school for fashion?

I actually did not major in fashion, but I have always had a passion for it, ever since I was little. I took classes on fashion in college, but I actually majored in consumer journalism with an emphasis on public relations and advertising. The summer going into my senior year of college, I got a fantastic internship at a men’s fashion trade publication in New York and I knew, after that summer, that I was going to move to New York and work in fashion.

After I graduated, I hightailed it to New York and got my first paying job in fashion at a pretty prestigious PR firm, which then catapulted me into the fashion world and I never looked back! I have to say, having a great PR background in fashion was a huge help in launching my business. I had a totally different perspective on how to market my company and how to reach the clientele I was seeking.

If I could do things differently, I would have minored in business. I have had to really learn the business side of my business quite guerrilla style, but I am incredibly lucky to have an unbelievably skilled board of advisors who, luckily, have guided me in the right direction, giving me invaluable business advise over the last four years.

3. How many employees do you have?

I always feel so proud to answer this question because we are a small boutique and we have two full-time employees, including myself, along with four other part-time employees. There has consistently been six of us over the last three years. We are like a family. The Rowe girls are the backbone of the shop and we all have individual personalities and styles of dressing, yet we all have a similar vision.

Our customers have special staff members they prefer to work with and some customers will only come in on the day that their favorite Rowe girl is working. Currently, I have four staff members that have all been with me over two years. To me, low turnover equals healthy working environment.

4. Working at a boutique sounds so fun. You get to shop and try on clothes all day. How can I get hired?

I definitely feel incredibly lucky that I have one of the best jobs out there, but there is a huge misconception about what goes on from day to day. It’s not all jewelry and high heels. It’s back stock, theft, customer credits, return authorizations, vendors, buying dollars, shipping windows, accounting, and a whole lot of other behind-the-scenes business dealings that can be so incredibly stressful that I have to hide out at my desk in the back room all day just to get it all done!

If you want to get a job at Rowe, you must be prepared to take out the trash, clean out dressing rooms, restock, vacuum, steam, and tag without complaining, along with all of the fun things like merchandising, styling, ringing, and helping and chatting with your favorite customers. The bottom line is, there is a lot more to working in a boutique than just hanging out with clothes all day. The Rowe girls can all attest to this. Yet they would still be the first to say, this is one of the best jobs they have ever had, myself included!

5. Do you design the clothes or do you buy them all? And if you buy them all, where do you get them from?

This is probably the most commonly asked question. I do not design anything. I buy everything from designers all over the world, and we have quite a few local accessory and jewelry designers as well. I go to trade shows and showrooms in New York about six times a year to look at the upcoming seasons’ collections and then I buy based on dollars per department. There is a lot of math and numbers that go into buying, which is why it’s so important to really analyze the previous season’s selling history.

I work consistently with representatives from each brand and I buy with the help of two of my employees. I always take a second set of eyes and opinions. It helps balance me and gives a better perspective on price , style, trend, and turnover. The buying is my favorite part. If you love to shop, and I always have, it’s such an amazing rush to get to see so far in advance what will be coming out the next season and then getting to pick your favorite pieces for the store based on what you’re seeing.

We have often brought a trend in too early, but it’s nice to be a bit ahead of the curve. In being able to forecast the trends, we have created a trust with our customers where they now know that we know what’s going to be important for the next season. At the shows and showrooms, we photograph everything and we always buy with special  customers in mind.

We hold up a dress and say, “Oh this would be just perfect for so-and-so.” That way, when they come into the store, we can show them a picture and let them know that we had them in mind when we were buying. Our customers and customer loyalty is so incredibly important. We always want our customers to know that they are often our inspiration for bringing such special pieces into Rowe.

6. You used to carry men’s clothes, didn’t you? What happened and why don’t you carry them any longer?

I am sad to say that we no longer carry men’s. The men’s buying was, honestly, one of my favorite things to do. Men are so easy. They are quick and decisive and they love one-stop shopping. However, they just don’t shop like women do− often. So, sadly, the merchandise did not sell as quickly and over time that ended up affecting my women’s business, and, ultimately, I was trying to grow Rowe, but the men’s was keeping it stagnant. I had to listen to my advisers and realize that if I wanted to get bigger, I needed those dollars and the floor space, so the men’s had to go. I do miss it and, hopefully, one of these days, the Rowe Men’s store will make its independent debut.

7. Did you move or is this the same store? Didn’t you used to be on just one side of this space?

Yes! In April of this year, we expanded into 720 N. High St., formerly the old Lux de Vie bath and body store. The timing was right, we needed more space, and Lux de Vie was leaving, so I was able to rent it and knock a hole through the wall to combine both spaces. We gained an additional 700 square feet and completely redesigned the entire space to make it a bit cleaner, more shopable, and, really, to make it about the merchandise. It’s bright, open, airy, and minimal. I am so in love with the new space. It really fits the aesthetic and type of merchandise we carry. When I am away from Rowe, I am always so anxious to come back because it’s such a warm environment to be in and such a nice place to spend my days.

To learn more about Rowe, visit RoweBoutique.com.

All photography by Adam Slane.