With Internet shopping more popular than ever, it’s no wonder that so many local businesses have jumped online. “Several of my local customers actually originated as online customers before even knowing I was based in Baltimore,” says Cara Schrock, owner of Urban Baby Runway, which recently closed its Hampden location to go back to strictly selling online. “I now offer Maryland residents free shipping as a thank-you for supporting me while I was in Hampden.” But for those boutiques that have both a brick-and-mortar store and an online profile, making a distinction between the two is important. “On our website, I made a clear effort not to over-emphasize either the boutique or the online store,” says Lisa Ponzoli, owner of Fells Point’s Babe. Adds Susannah Siger, owner of Hampden’s Ma Petite Shoe: “We have the same merchandise online that’s in the store, but we reach more ‘risk-takers’ online.” Some items that “blow-up” online are not quite the same big draws in Hampden. “We had to remake several dozens of the cat tapestry ‘Bee-Bee’ by Jeffrey Campbell, pictured above, for the waiting list that stretched to Japan,” Siger says. While Ponzoli relishes offering both local customers and out-of-state shoppers the chance to buy Babe’s products, she has no plans to take her shop online entirely. “I would never want the online store to replace the boutique,” she says. “The boutique is where the true experience is.”
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Issue date: March, 2013