A Lesson in Community and Partnership: THE BOULEVARD at South End

By Erin Maddrey Photos by Eric Cutchin

June 1, 2015

It has been said that change is constant and that nothing lasts forever. This statement is true in the business world, and in the instance of THE BOULEVARD at South End, it is true in the retail world, too.

Originally opened in 2006 in NoDa, THE BOULEVARD was a shop focused on bringing new, vintage and unique items created and sold by local and regional artisans, crafters and curators to Charlotteans. When the lease was up in 2011, the original owners decided it was time to move on and prepared to shut the doors. It was three vendors though—brought together by the concept of THE BOULEVARD— who decided it was a business concept that should continue.

Jennifer Branham photo by Eric Cutchin

Jennifer Branham, Carmen Ellis, and Angie Regan are the three artists behind this renaissance, working with one of the original owners of THE BOULEVARD, opened the reimagined store over three and a half years ago in South End.  In that time, Branham, Ellis, and Regan have curated a shop true to the original store’s concept of providing unique finds to the shoppers of Charlotte, while also staying true to the vibe of South End.

Carmen Ellis photo by Eric Cutchin

Their partnership is based on their strengths and each brings something new to the table. Branham, with a degree in Public Relations, is passionate about marketing, special events, and sales. Regan, a former accountant for NIKE, handles the all of the financial aspects of running a business. Ellis, an experienced retail buyer with a keen eye for clothes and jewelry, is the shop’s buyer and goes to markets in Atlanta, New York, and Las Vegas to find unique pieces for the store.

Just as they themselves are partners in running their business, they also call their vendors partners.  An artisanal collective that works together to bring quality items, from purses, home décor, linens, nail polish and hostess gifts, to shoppers.

Photo by Eric Cutchin

“What makes our store unique is our partners without a doubt,” Branham said. “You can go to a lot of boutiques in Charlotte and buy a cute dress or handbag but few places can offer [those items] plus over 40 local artisans and entrepreneurs showcasing their items.”

Always looking for new partners for the store, the three businesswomen look for items that are well made, affordable for that particular type of item, and it has to “fit” in with the aesthetic and concept of the store. As a promise to partners, they try to never overlap partners with similar goods, so items are all unique and there is no unwanted competition amongst partners.

Another partnership that Branham, Ellis, and Regan recognized was the extremely important one with their new community of South End.

“We have received great support from fellow South End small businesses, the very supportive neighborhood association, and we have [created] a close relationship with Center City Partners in trying to bring events to the South End area,” Branham said.

Photo by Eric Cutchin

Becoming ingrained in the South End area, THE BOULEVARD tries to be active in all South End events. From Art & Soul South End to being cheerleaders during the South End portion of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, THE BOULEVARD takes their role as neighborhood ambassadors seriously.

“We would love more retail partners [in South End],” Branham said. “It will come at some point but the changes/focuses right now in the area are housing, office space, and breweries. “

Change is constant and THE BOULEVARD realizes this and is embracing it. If you haven’t stopped by the shop yet, go and support a local Charlotte business with unique items and well-curated clothes and jewelry selections. Each item is unique just like the women that run the store.

Photo by Eric Cutchin

“It is so important to support local business,” Branham said. “We can’t survive or thrive without local support. Yes, we all love Target for our retail therapy but we also can spot an item that has come from Target! If we make a conscious effort to shift just 10% of our spending to local businesses, you will be amazed at the growth that will bring to the community for everyone, not just the small businesses.”

Follow THE BOULEVARD at South End on facebook and twitter.

1440 S Tryon Street
Charlotte NC 28203

In this article