In 2004, Sally Bird decided she didn’t want to just work for a retail store on Louisville’s Bardstown Road, she wanted to own one. So, that year she and her friend Sue Scofield opened Dot Fox, a Highlands boutique known for carrying collections of women’s and men’s clothing, shoes and accessories that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in town. In 2005 Sally became the sole owner of the shop, and Dot Fox moved to its current location at 1567 Bardstown Road.
Since the doors of Dot Fox opened, the retailers of Bardstown Road have seen many changes to the street known for its hip, eclectic eateries and shops — including the closing of Ear-X-Tacy, the music store once considered a mainstay of the city. Through it all, Dot Fox has remained, and we recently talked to Sally about her secrets to success. Meet this week’s FACE of Louisville!
When you opened Dot Fox in 2004, what did you feel you could offer Louisville that other shops in the area didn’t?
Most of all, ourselves. We were able to travel and see things that we found intriguing. We were curious. We found small things that no one else was doing. We found a bunch of crafters that we were interested in and curated some special stuff.
When we opened we had some great stuff that was picked up at The Camden Market in London. Some things I pick up while traveling are handicrafts, folk art, vintage clothing and jewelry. Whenever I travel I find out where the markets are and go. Most recently, I brought back some vintage from Lisbon, Portugal, and Manchester, England.
We had the Demeter fragrances, and you couldn’t get them anywhere in Louisville back then. Also, when we opened we were crafting — making jewelry, bags and reworking garments. At market, we chose some awesome lines like Nooworks, Soundgirl and Pink Spike that, in 2004, no one had ever heard of, and people loved it.
In the past 15 years, many stores on Bardstown Road have come and gone. What’s been the secret to Dot Fox’s staying power?
We have always been well-staffed. Our intention is to connect and serve. That is the job. People show up, and they have a great experience and they continue to come back. They express gratitude and love because that’s what we’re expressing to them.
How have the changes on Bardstown Road affected your shop?
There are so many good things happening on our block these days. Shiraz opened next door a year ago. The food is amazing, and they are excellent neighbors. We couldn’t love them more. Also, we have two new tailors in the neighborhood. We are now very well-nourished and have limitless options for garment modification.
Retail spaces are occupied quickly on Bardstown Road. It is a wonderful place for small businesses. It creates community. Transition is natural, and there is more than enough room for everyone. Shops like General Eccentric, Hey Tiger, Vintage Banana and Book and Music Exchange — we actually thrive off each other.
In addition to the brick-and-mortar store, Dot Fox also sells clothing and accessories online. What have you done to make this successful?
Dot Fox is a brick-and-mortar shop first and foremost. That is my focus and the reason for our success. Online we sell our screen-printed t-shirts, dresses, tarot cards and Nooworks. I keep the online store small and controllable.
Why do you think many people still choose to come into the store to shop despite being able to make purchases online?
To have an actual shopping experience. Isn’t it nice to engage with an actual human being? Why wouldn’t anyone want to do that? Buying online is easy, but they are two totally different experiences.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just get out there and do it. Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing. Pay attention, mostly to yourself, and just look within. Don’t be shy. Just come with a good heart and trust your courage.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to travel and get out of my comfort zone. I love to dig. I’m really into crystals, and I’ve been going to Arkansas for the past three or four years. Go to Mount Ida and dig yourself some crystals. You will be glad you did.
I like the outdoors — hiking, swimming, getting out on the boat on the lake.
I like my pets. I have a 15-year-old hound dog and a 1-year-old kitten and a kitten I got last week.
I like to follow my bliss.
What are some of your favorite spots in Louisville?
I love al fresco dining. The old standby will always be El Mundo. I love the backyard at El Mundo. The veggie burrito and a fake beer at El Mundo — that’s for me. I’ve been lucky to help with some design work at La Suerte, so I have been eating there a lot. My favorite today is the veggie torta with fries. But I have many favorites. Get the queso with chorizo, too. And La Suerte has a great back patio. Lupo on Frankfort is so good. I love the Bitter Pig and some oysters. Go there and eat some pasta. They have a cute side patio, too. Places I like to go and send people would be the Belvedere just to get out and walk around. And the Galt House. The Ali Center I think is my top pick of places to go in our city.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given or have to give?
Be the joy that you seek.
Name three things (besides family, faith and friends) that you can’t live without.
Coffee, crystals and leopard print shoes
Thanks for chatting with us, Sally, and thanks to Gretchen Bell for the fabulous photos!
Learn more about our amazing FACES of Louisville in our archives HERE!