WILLMAR — A person's style can be an outward expression of their personalities. So it makes sense that the Beauty Box Boutique in Willmar puts a spotlight on fashion that is a creative mix of Minnesota and Los Angeles.
The owner of the boutique, Misty Watkins, is an LA transplant who now calls Minnesota home. She likes to stock her store with clothes local customers want and love to buy — sweaters and leggings in the winter — but also offer the glitz and glam of the West Coast.
The store has a range of styles and sizes, from juniors to plus. The biggest sellers are usually tops and leggings, though the store also sells party dresses and brings in new fashion trends. There is also a wide array of beauty products, makeup, hair accessories and handbags, to help pull any outfit together.
The Beauty Box is the result of Watkins' lifelong love of both fashion and beauty and customer service. She started working in customer service and sales as a teenager and worked in real estate for 12 years.
"I've always loved working with people," Watkins said.
During that time she was always interested in clothes and beauty products and her mom urged her to open her own business.
"So, thanks to my mom," Watkins said.
The Beauty Box Boutique first opened in Alexandria, but after about six years, Watkins, who lives in Spicer, decided she wanted to be a bit closer to home.
"I didn't want to drive anymore," Watkins said.
Watkins brought the Beauty Box to Willmar in early 2018. She first located her business next to Tires Plus along South First Street. While she thought that location was good, she started looking for a new premises that would be easier for customers to reach.
She ended up coming across the former location of the Blue Bird Pet Shop in the One Plaza shopping complex at 1305 S. First St. Being located next to a popular restaurant, the Panda Garden Buffet, and a salon provides the store with a larger public presence.
"We'll have more foot traffic which is important," Watkins said.
The space needed a lot of work — the floor alone took almost a month to scrape up — but Watkins was able to put her own touch on the location. The remodeling included brand new floors, paint job, ceilings and lights. The bright white walls allow the clothes to shine and the brand new fitting rooms give customers a nice place to try on potential purchases.
"This space was completely gutted and remodeled," Watkins said.
The Beauty Box celebrated its grand opening at the new location over Thanksgiving weekend. The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Many of Watkins' ideas for her new store came from participating in the Kandiyohi County Retail Business Design Workshops early this year. The workshops were conducted by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission and the University of Minnesota, along with assistance from the Willmar Main Street program. During the workshops, Watkins and other business owners and operators learned about marketing, customer experience and inventory control.
"We learned a lot about apparel in the class," Watkins said.
Beauty Box was also chosen to work with Jackie Parr from the University of Minnesota Retail Design Program, who helped Watkins streamline her inventory plans and create a welcoming place for customers to shop.
"This is a result of a makeover the University of Minnesota and the EDC helped us do," Watkins said.
As a small business owner, Watkins likes to showcase local designers and work with youth who are interested in a fashion or sales career. The store's Facebook and Instagram accounts are full of pictures of young people modeling the clothes or showing off hairstyles.
"It is really fun working with the youth," Watkins said.
Over the years Watkins and the Beauty Box have cultivated a group of dedicated customers, who are as much part of the business as Watkins is. Her customers are why she does what she does and why she has worked so hard to find the perfect location for her boutique.
"We typically think of that woman when we are at market," Watkins said. "I do love it when the ladies get involved in the boutique."