Cincinnati is no stranger to mobile vendors, but Ashley Volbrecht’s Truckshop, a newly opened mobile fashion boutique, is the first of its kind in the Midwest. The shop, originally a bread delivery truck, has been transformed into a retail shopper’s paradise, complete with dresses, tops and jewelry at reasonable prices.
Volbrecht, a Chicago native and Indiana University business school graduate, works full time and took on Truckshop as a side project reflecting her interest for all-things fashion. CityBeat recently caught up with Volbrecht to discuss the process and outcome of such an ambitious and personal project.
CityBeat: How did you get the idea for a mobile fashion boutique?
Ashley Volbrecht: I saw a similar concept in California, but I wanted to blow it up and make it 10 times better. I’ve always wanted to create something from scratch and this was the first thing I couldn’t get out of my mind. Of course, I have no formal background in fashion, but I have such a passion for it that I feel like I know it well. And I learned everything on the fly — I would Google where to find the big shows and I just showed up. There’s such a beauty in not having any experience.
CB: What was the truck renovation process like?
AV: I found my truck on Craigslist. It was a gem. It used to be a Keebler delivery truck. It’s bigger than most step vans, and I felt like that was important so we could get more merchandise. To put a wrapper on a truck is one of the most expensive parts — it was almost as expensive as my truck.
I did have a girl — a [student at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning] named Brittany McDaniels — do the logo for me. And [local designer] Michelle Pinales designed the outside for me, basically pro bono. I feel like this is the best city to launch something because there are just so many people willing to help you.
CB: How does it work? Is there a dressing room? What about a return policy?
AV: There is a dressing room. We take cash and credit. I do everything with my Square app on my phone. If we don’t have a size, that’s where we can follow up — we’re still trying to figure out the kinks of getting more storage. Otherwise, we’re just like a regular store — a lot of trucks feel flea market-ish, but ours is more high-end. As far as a return policy goes, I think it’s going to have to be all sales final. That’s the only way to make it work. But once we start online shopping, all shipping will be free.
CB: What kind of merchandise do you sell? Local? Vintage?
AV: No vintage. All new, but all over. I found things from Etsy to all of the big [trade] shows in L.A., New York, Atlanta. I’m working on getting local pieces — I know that’s important in Cincinnati — but I just want to have something different that you can’t get anywhere else. The style of clothes I have is similar to Southern boutiques. The price point is important, too. You want someone to feel comfortable making an impulse purchase, so you need affordable merchandise, so everything in the store is under $65.
CB: What kind role do you think social media will play in getting the word out?
AV: Huge role. There are three main boutiques that I follow, and they have a tremendous online following and almost everything is online — just Facebook and Instagram. We’re going to post photos of our outfits, and Facebook now has an app that’s just like an online store.
CB: What’s your vision with this store? Why the mobile element?
AV: I don’t want to wait for people to come to me on my little street. There’s something exciting about being there in the moment, here today and gone tomorrow. I think retail needs that sense of urgency — I can’t remember the last time I bought something full price at Kenwood mall. The mobile factor increases the number of people you can reach, and also creates that proposition, “Get it now while it’s here.” Really my goal for all of this was to give Cincinnati the best one in the country, and I feel like I kind of did that. If there’s ever a town to embrace it, I think it’s here.
TRUCKSHOP will be at Second Sunday on Main on July 14. For more information, visit facebook.com/shopthetruck or follow @shopthetruck on Twitter.