A youthful breeze is blowing through the Miramichi as more and more young professionals are rising to the helm of the local business world.
Earlier this year, the Miramichi Leader reported that many of these young people are women who are buying new businesses or taking over existing ones. Now, another local businesswoman has joined that list.
April Dickson’s dream has always been to own her own clothing store.
The 36-year-old Napan native, who is an accredited professional mortgage broker with The Mortgage Centre and vice-president of the board for the Miramichi Young Professionals and Involved Entrepreneurs, has taken on yet another endeavour.
On Monday, June 1, Dickson walked into the Denim Wearhouse on King George Highway as the store’s new co-owner.
“When I first walked in I had butterflies,” Dickson told the Miramichi Leader at her store. “I had to take a few breaths, I couldn’t believe it, I was thinking, ‘This is mine?!'”
Dickson and her significant other, Darwin Cripps, purchased the business from founders and longtime owners Sandy and Dianne MacGregor, who opened the store 25 years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own clothing store, so I was working with the city’s (acting director of economic development and tourism) Jeff MacTavish,” she said.
Dickson noted MacTavish would suggest various possible business opportunities, such as shoe stores and other small businesses, but nothing really jumped out at her.
“Then I thought of Denim Wearhouse,” Dickson said.
Dickson said she knew the owners had been operating the store for more than two decades and wondered if they were interested in selling their business.
“So I approached Sandy and he came and met with me the next day and we made a deal, and then it was off to the races.”
Dickson struck gold when she learned the store’s manager, Krista Augustine, would be staying on board.
“Krista is awesome,” Dickson said, adding Augustine has been around since the store’s inception.
“I was here when it originally opened,” Augustine said, adding she joined staff after friend who worked there told the owners Augustine was looking for a job. “They didn’t even see me, they didn’t know who they were hiring, and I’ve been here since.”
During the years, Augustine has seen a lot of changes in the business.
“There were no box stores when we opened,” she said, adding Mark’s Work Wearhouse also opened around that time. Besides that, that type of store was foreign to the area.
Denim Wearhouse was, and still is, unique to the area because of the high-end brands it carries, Augustine said.
“We get people from all over coming here because it’s different,” she said.
“There was no online shopping. There wasn’t even a debit card when we opened,” she said laughing, adding she remembers using the old-fashioned, manual credit card machines.
Augustine said she is looking forward to working with Dickson.
The store’s manager said the Internet has changed the way people shop, but not necessarily in a negative way.
“It is changing things, but online is the best way to get to people,” Augustine said. “Every age group is different that you gear towards. Kids are very into social media, but then you have your women who are more hands-on. Everybody is different.”
Dickson’s youthful energy and know-how will help with the social media aspect of the business, she said. The store has more than 500 loyal customers and that list is growing.
“Because I’ve been here, I’ve waited on people with their children, because we carried children’s wear, and now their children are here and they have children. We’re going through generations now.”
It’s not just the brand names and quality clothing that keeps customers coming through the doors, Dickson said. They also come for the customer service.
“Customer service is the number one,” Augustine said. “That’s kind of what we pride ourselves on, is the customer service.”
The new ownership is a positive thing, Augustine said.
“Change is good, it’s exciting,” she said, adding that because the previous owners were in the business for so many years, they tended to do the same thing over and over again, leaving little room for change. “There was no room for me to go. No one was excited anymore, so this is kind of nice.”
The first day she was in the store as a co-owner, Dickson said she could tell the employees were looking forward to what lies ahead when they were searching the buying manual for new items.
“We were sitting here yesterday and (the employees) had the book out and I felt they were excited as I was,” she said, adding Augustine was previously limited about what items she could bring to the store. “Now she can just go.”
The store has a staff of eight in total, including Dickson.
When it comes to buying new clothing lines, Dickson said she assumed it would be a glamorous affair.
“I thought I was going to a fashion show,” Dickson laughed, adding she thought it would be a much different process from what Augustine has told her.
“It’s not glamorous,” Augustine said, noting it’s a lot of work.
Augustine looks for new ideas by searching the web.
“You search online for new lines, something new and different, but a lot of the buying is done by travelling between Moncton and Bathurst, where lines are set up in a hotel and buyers go room to room and check out the lines,” she said. “It’s a long day.”
Dickson, who grew up on a hobby farm with draft horses and is known around the Napan area for her riding, said she didn’t think one day she would have her own clothing store.
“I was dad’s boy,” she said. It wasn’t until she finished high school that she really found her love for fashion.
“It’s a dream. I think it’s every girl’s dream,” she said. “This is huge. I never thought that at 36 (years-old), I’d have my dream.”
As per Miramichi Leader, June 10, 2015 by Katie Smith