When Cathy Shircliff embarked on her career in college at Georgetown, she thought she knew exactly what she wanted to be in a few decades’ time. Get a law degree, intern on “The Hill,” work in nonprofits and be a U.S. Senator by age 35. Instead, Shircliff has pursued another path – one forged on entrepreneurship and one that has landed her in the world of fashion. Since opening her St. Matthews boutique Pink Julep in July 2012, Shircliff has found her true place in the world, even if where she ended up is not D.C. or the world of Machiavellian machinations.
“I’ve always liked clothes and to shop and it’s really been a series of happy accidents to get me here,” says Shircliff, whose first foray into entrepreneurship was owning a silver jewelry store. “If you’d asked me when I was 18 what I wanted to do, I would not have said this. But then again, how many people end up knowing what they want to do when they’re 18?”
One way in which Shircliff has tried to cement Pink Julep’s sartorial uniqueness and distance herself from other boutiques in the area is by expanding her scope for sourcing the latest trends and styles, the goal being that if you buy something from Pink Julep, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find it anywhere else.
“Everyone in Kentucky goes to Atlanta,” Shircliff says. “And I still like a lot of the regional designers there. But I really enjoy Los Angeles. There’s so much more space in the showrooms, so I’ve been able to pick up many more unique, smaller designers that are available only in L.A.”
Even L.A. is not able to cater to all of Shircliff’s and Kentucky’s needs, though. For that, she again searches further afield.
“We try to stay abreast of the current trends, but are in Louisville,” she says. “So sometimes we have to look at those trends and translate it. For example, our price point is not at a point where we’re charging $150 for a scarf. There are some things that are always going to stay popular in Kentucky like the equestrian-themed stuff, so I know that will always be good.
The solution? Go to New Orleans and use a small label by the name of Jolie and Elizabeth, who specialize in seersuckers that are sourced and manufactured locally.
It’s this pursuit of locating and sourcing unique designers while still being able to offer a competitive price point that Shircliff thinks accounts for the repeat customers to Pink Julep – not that there is a “typical” Pink Julep customer, either.
“We hit that mid-range price point and therefore we don’t have a typical customer, and that’s so great and wonderful,” Shircliff says. “We have a family of daughters who come in all the time and their mom shops with me. We have another customer who shops here all the time, who turns 40 next year and another who is 47. And another customer we have and who’s one of my favourite regular customers is 81.”
It’s the endless pursuit of treating those repeat customers with respect and outstanding service that has ensured Pink Julep has thrived and gone from strength to strength since it’s opening 18 months ago.
“I think part of the success, and this is going to sound totally conceited, is because I’ve poured my heart and soul into it,” Shircliff says. “We all try to treat everyone who walks in through the door very special. I try to treat everyone in the way that I would like to be treated when I come into a store. I personally hate it when you walk in to some boutiques and the staff just look at you. And that’s truly what makes our store different, in that we’re not trying to be anything other than ourselves.”
Photos By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune