Depending on your perspective, twenty years is either a long time or a blink of an eye, but in business, it’s a real statement of fortitude, especially in the fashion business. Just imagine all of the inventory that comes through the doors of a clothing stores in that amount of time, not to mention the economic ups and downs, employees, customers and partners. Did you know that there are two boutiques in town celebrating their 20th anniversaries this summer?Recently, I sat down with the owners of Rodeo Drive and Clodhoppers to talk about their big birthdays, and today, we take a look at these to Louisville favorites as our way of saying congratulations!

 

Rodeo Drive

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Mother-daughter owners Raquel Koff (far left) and Michelle Tasman (center). Their are four generations represented here.

Twenty years ago, Raquel Koff and Eileen Hacker (her business partner of 7 years) set out on their own and opened Rodeo Drive. Their first location was on Shelbyville Road, in what is now the Toyota Car Dealership. They stayed there for ten years before moving to their current location in the Holiday Manor shopping center. When they first started, they mainly carried specialty gowns, better sportswear and jewelry. They had an on-site alterations department, with Olga Goldstein at the helm. Good tailors are hard to find, and great ones are next to impossible. Olga is one of their secrets to success, and she’s been with them for twenty years.

Beautiful gowns always at Rodeo Drive.

There are always beautiful gowns at Rodeo Drive.

Another of Rodeo Drive’s secrets for staying in the game this long is their adaptability. When Raquel realized that she was sending her clients to other stores to complete their outfits, she expanded their inventory to shoes, handbags and more casual clothes. Rodeo Drive now offers full-service outfitting.

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Casual and dressy purses at Rodeo Drive.

Raquel’s daughter Michelle joined Rodeo Drive full time in 2008 after going to college and working at ABC News in New York. Coming to work at the shop was like coming home for her, as so much of her growing up was spent in here, and she represents the best of both worlds: she was trained in the old school ways of customer service, but understands the the generation of clients who are more modern.

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Michelle Tasman helps her husband’s grandmother pick out an outfit from the Joseph Ribkoff trunk show.

They have always been devoted to building long-term relationship with their clients and understanding their needs. Their philosophy is simple: they care about the way their clients look.

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Customer service at its finest. Here a customer is being fitted in this coat.

What’s on the horizon for Rodeo Drive for the next twenty years? Instead of fighting the inevitable, they are branching out into e-commerce. Their biggest competition is not other boutiques, it is the Internet. Continuing to be adaptable to changing needs and changing times, Rodeo Drive expects to launch their website soon. www.shopatrodeodrive.com

 

Clodhoppers

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First sign on their first store on Bardstown Road and Alta Avenue, circa 1993.

Twenty years ago, high school friends and college roommates Kelly McDonald and Kathy Reiss-Miller decided to open a boutique. They were only 24 years old and were waiting tables when they first opened Clodhoppers on the corner of Bardstown Road and Alta Avenue.

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Window display from the first store, with a spray painted tire amongst other things.

This was THE place for the grungy, urban chic look we were wanting at the time. They initially sold Doc Martens, clogs and used Levi’s, and as Kelly and Kathy, and their clientele, shifted their aesthetic a bit, they grew into such brands as Urban Outfitters and French Connection. (Adapting to changing times and tastes sounds like a theme for successful boutiques, it would appear.)

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Here’s a storefront window announcing the arrival of Urban Outfitters, a new line back in 2000.

They opened a second location in Prospect and grew that location as well. The commuting back and forth between stores broke them and they compromised for one middle location in the Vogue Center in St. Matthews.

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From grunge to modern. Light fixture in the current Clodhoppers.

It was this move in 2008 that launched them into a larger store, and they started to sell men’s clothing with plans to sell children’s clothing as well. This was also right when the economy tanked. They downsized their space at the Vogue, dropped the men’s line and focused on only women’s clothing.

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Clodhoppers now

By this time they were carrying Milly, Trina Turk and a host of other high-end brands. Gone were the Doc Martens.

 

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They say their worst decision was trying to carry a men’s line. But they add that the learning experiences have been great for them. They are both very open and not afraid to change (there it is again, that secret to success!), and it is this temperament and their friendship that has kept them around for 20 years. www.clodhoppers.com

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Ah, the good old days. Kelly is second from the left and Kathy is on the far right.

 

We’re so glad Rodeo Drive and Clodhopper’s have figured out the secret to longevity! Happy anniversary to two wonderful shops. And here’s to twenty more!