Meghan Hart has a bubbly, infectious personality. This serves her well as owner and public face of the recently-opened Royal Oak boutique, Meghan Marion.
“My whole business model is surrounding that very personal customer experience,” says Hart. “That’s something you don’t find in retail anymore. You walk into a store and you’re kind of herded a little. It’s important to come into a store and feel like you’re shopping with a friend, someone who will tell you the truth.”
This is the kind of experience Hart seeks to create at Meghan Marion, her eponymously-named (“Marion” is her middle name) women’s clothing boutique that opened this past July in downtown Royal Oak. She describes the store as being “rustic chic,” filled with furniture from estate sales and antique shows, a fake fireplace, and a real tree. On weekends they might even offer you beer or wine – all part of making the customer feel comfortable and right at home.
Hart grew up in Bloomfield Hills and moved to Chicago to study entrepreneurism management at DePaul University. While living in Chicago, she managed a boutique store and found that not only did she really enjoy it; she was really good at it. “There was always a joke in our family [that I’m] so good at sales [I should open my] own boutique,” she says. “Working in Chicago [I realized], you know, I’m really good at this! It never feels like work!”
She had also cut her retail teeth at big-box chains like Victoria’s Secret, but didn’t enjoy the anonymous corporate aspect of retail sales at all, saying, “I can’t imagine going through [that] again.”
Having grown up as the child of an entrepreneur – her father owns a forestry company in Oakland County – she had seen all of the ups and downs of being a business owner throughout her whole life. “I have a really great mentor, and I don’t have a glorified view of owning a business.”
Hart moved back to metro Detroit last summer and has been working on the concept for Meghan Marion since early 2014. She received assistance from Oakland County’s One Stop Shop, where her mentor Greg Doyle helped her navigate the loan process and look at balance sheets. She also received valuable market research that helped her identify the best area for her concept. “I got the best market research there that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else,” she says. “And it was FREE!”
She chose to open her boutique in Royal Oak, where she saw a need for a higher-end women’s clothing retailer – versus, say, downtown Birmingham, where many such retailers already exist – and where there is already foot traffic to leverage. “Honestly, it was a no-brainer,” she says. “I hit the mother load with this location!”
Meghan Marion stocks classic pieces from premium labels like 7 For All Mankind, Michael Stars, Splendid, BB Dakota, and more. When asked to describe the “style” of the store, Hart says, “The store is like my closet. It’s like my dream. I just buy what I love!”
If forced to assign an age range to the women to whom the store might appeal, she says 20-45. But, she adds, her mom (who is in her 50s) and all her mom’s friends buy clothes from her, as do her own friends (in their mid-twenties). It really appeals to anyone with contemporary, but not outlandish or too-youthful, taste. “We sell contemporary women’s clothing at a mid-range price point. We carry very fun brands but we’re also pretty classy. These are good statement pieces you’ll have for a long time, which is the best way to go about building a wardrobe. It’s not about quantity but quality and how long a piece will last you.”
Hart also says she’s big on the “Midwestern woman” – a woman with a distinctive style and sensibility that is markedly different from her coastal counterparts. “Essentially there’s no one like the Midwestern woman. She’s really laid back but can still go with the crowd and be trendy.” Also, what works in somewhere like Chicago might not work in Michigan. “We need to make [fashion] relevant for us.”