We’ve got style and we’ve got it in spades! Elmira may be my small (and growing) hometown, but we sure have a clothing store that will impress. So ladies, may I introduce you to fb and me. This full service boutique and hair salon offers clients the finest in customer service, and may be the best location for your next girl’s night out! Owner, Tami Runstedler even holds private shopping parties during the evenings and weekends. With a focus on Canadian-based businesses, (90% of the stock has a Canadian connection) you can’t go wrong with a purchase from this gem. Shop local. Support local. It can’t get much better than that!
This lovely lady, born in Paisley Ontario, has been an Elmira resident for 13 years. Bringing her passion for fashion to our eclectic and diverse community, she is fulfilling her dream of owning a small business and raising a family in a picturesque, little town.
Read on for our interview:
Thanks so much for meeting me today. I am so excited to do a profile on your gorgeous boutique! Can you tell me why you decided to open fb and me?
It’s great to have you here! Well, to answer your question, there are many reasons why I decided to start my own business. I didn’t thrive in a routine environment, performing the same tasks day after day. I left a very secure job in the insurance industry to start fb and me. It wasn’t out of necessity that I created my own job, I just needed a change. I knew I wouldn’t be happy dealing with endless piles of paperwork and meeting quotas for the rest of my life. I wanted to live life according to my own terms. I wanted my children to know that challenging the status quo and taking a different path than most is okay! I wanted them to see that life isn’t always about taking the easy road, sometimes you need to take risks to get exactly what you want – to live life with passion!
Isn’t that the truth?
I believe so! I guess that why I chose to step out of the norm and start my own business.
Well we’re glad you did! I know Elmira doesn’t have much of a fashion scene (yet).
No. Right now we’re basically the fashion scene in town. I know I would love it if more retailers opened, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
So why a fashion boutique?
After a long period of market research and evaluation, I decided the type of business for me was a retail shop focused on women. That’s where I wanted to start. I have always loved fashion as it’s a way for people to express themselves and their own unique personality. You say a lot with fashion without saying anything at all. It is such a creative industry, one that allows you to explore different sides of yourself.
When starting the store the one thing I did not want was a “stereotypical” boutique that only sells main street labels. You know, the clothing that screams I am a follower of and defined solely by those acceptable labels. I made it my mission to source out unique, yet everyday fashion. Those labels that when you wear them, you are defining them, not the other way around.
Clothes that make a fashion statement.
Exactly. You notice the person that is making the fashion statement. They are expressing themselves. I want to empower woman to embrace their inner trendsetter and dress for themselves.
That’s great! I completely agree. You should dress for yourself first. Do you have any fashion tips for our readers?
Fashion tips! Haha. This is such a common question, but it’s one I actually have such a hard time answering. I guess the simplest advice I can give is to be true to you. Don’t try to emulate others. Embrace your uniqueness. There is only one you and it’s okay to like many different styles. You don’t need to fit within an exact style description.
So tell me a bit about your experience starting the store. Was it difficult getting started?
The first year I honestly put in hundreds of hours determining things like which companies I wanted to buy from, how to set up a display, where to get hangers, wall racks and mannequins, etc. This was a whole new world for me as I had never worked in a retail clothing store. I definitely had a lot of learning experiences. The first year I had to buy blind. I had to buy spring, summer, fall and winter merchandise all at the same time. It was a big commitment to a lot of merchandise…but it worked.
Did you find any challenges specific to opening a store in a small town?
Competition in the market for what I was planning was non-existent in Elmira. I was starting something new. I knew Elmira was where I wanted to open. This is where I live and love to live. However the process definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought. Elmira needed retail and businesses to locate downtown, but was lacking viable real estate to do so! Eventually I did find a place (not where we’re located now) that I knew would be temporary, but would get me started in my business venture. Provide me with a foundation to grow from.
How long have you been open?
We’ve been open since March 2009 and we’ve always had a pretty small team. Besides myself, we have one hairstylist (Shelly Cassel) for the salon and one part-time sales clerk (Amanda). We are looking for an aesthetician, as the previous one retired, but it’s great. I get to choose who I work with. I hire people I like and people who care about me and the success of this business. It’s such a positive place. Everyone is so confident and optimistic!
Wow! That is a small team. I am so glad everyone gets along so well! I’ve always been curious…what was the inspiration for the name of your store? What’s fb and me?
Naming the store was one of the most challenging decisions I had to make. I needed a brand that embraced me, but wasn’t limiting if the business plan needed to change. It took months to come up with something so simple, yet so meaningful to me. What was I opening? A fashion boutique! Who was I opening it for? Me and my family! My children’s names are Ferrin and Brody and my husband’s name is Bruce. Put that all into the mix and the name came out fb and me.
Haha! So simple and clever!….You know, I think what I love most about your store is that there is a Canadian connection with almost everything you offer. You can basically walk in here and know you’re buying something that’s supporting local in some fashion.
Thank you! I strongly believe in supporting our country. However, I also understand that sometimes these companies need to outsource to other places to remain competitive and in business. My initial intent with the store was to offer only Canadian-made pieces. That took a slight turn though to be Canadian-based businesses. I’ve done a lot of research into the brands I support though and know they do frequent factory checks. I don’t want to support unfair working practices.
What’s great is that now that I’ve been in business for a while, companies and sales reps are contacting me. I’ve definitely put fewer miles on my car these past few years than when I started! Haha! I’m excited because this year we’ve secured Artex Fashions which is a fully Canadian design line.
Wow! That’s super exciting! Can you tell me a few of your favourite brands that you carry?
Right now I’m loving TUK shoes ! While they aren’t a Canadian brand, they are very original and unique. I am also in love with a line called DeLish which is made in Toronto and Pink Martini, a fun, flirty line designed in Toronto. YoSox is great if I have to wear socks. These ones are fun and fashionable.
Love your passion! So what’s the best part about owning your own business?
Honestly sometimes the best things about owning a business and the most challenging things overlap. It’s really rewarding to use my creativity and energy to achieve something that inspires me. I’m in the driver’s seat and I’m making decisions on where to take my business in the future. Learning to delegate is very difficult though! Each day is filled with new opportunities that challenge me to be more creative or to learn something new. I found this quote a few years ago and am still amazed how true it is:
“Because every day, I learn something new about the act of owning a business. Whether its something about taxes, about accounting, or the plethora of other things that go into running a company, I am always fascinated by the parts and pieces of knowledge that I learn every day just to keep the business on track.”
I also love interacting with my customers! Although there is the negative side of dealing with some unpleasant customers, I really enjoy the one-on-one interaction. I genuinely care about my customers and I believe they know that. I have made some really great friends. I’ve had clients ask for private consultations here at the store, or at their homes. Those clients become just like family and I keep them in mind when I do the buying. I love it when women embrace their inner fashion guru!
Yes! I LOVE that! I can honestly see customer service is the priority for you. This place just feels like home.
That’s so nice! We do have a lot of things going on here. Once people sort of realize all that we offer…they just think it’s fabulous. I mean we have the salon here, where Shelly sets her own hours, then we have our special ladies nights in which are always so much fun.
Ohhh. What are those?
Well you call in and basically you’re booking the store for a group of your friend or colleagues, we have had small work gatherings here. We close up the curtains to make the space private and intimate. It’s like a girl’s party in a big closet! We’ve done makeovers…The store is really customizable. It’s what you want it to be.
So fun! Well I can tell just from being here how much people love the store. What are three words you think describe it?
I really liked this question so I actually put it out to my facebook followers.
Here’s what they had to say about fb and me
How great is this feedback?
Do you find there is a supportive network for small businesses in Elmira?
That area is starting to develop. This year I actually joined the BIA. I’ve been in business for 5 years so I have a bit more time to sit on a board and actually do things, other than just fb and me. We’re trying to bring more support to businesses and engage more in business to business marketing. It’s about educating people that we’re downtown and getting them to shop more in Elmira. For a small town, we actually have a lot of amenities. This year we changed up the sidewalk sale pretty significantly. We had the car show downtown as part of that which was great. We’re starting to use social media more effectively, because advertising when you’re a small business can be costly and social media is free. There is a lot more to come!
I’m excited to see all the changes! I did go to the sidewalk sale and really enjoyed it. Now just to finish the interview off…what are your favourite places to visit in our region?
Hmm favourite places to visit? I enjoy Flow’s Café. I enjoy stumbling around the Antique Market in St. Jacobs…Elmira Kitchen Kuttings – my freezer normally has at least one of their cheeseballs in it haha. Winterberry’s Design and Décor Inc is nice, The Window Box is one of the most creative floral shops around. Sugar Babies Cakes which just opened down the street is great…and soup from the Sip & Bite Restaurant ! As a family treat, we like to go for brunch at the Black Forest Inn. My daughter is 15 and my son is 8 so anything we can do together is my favourite!
Thanks so much for speaking with me Tami. I wish you all the best!
fb and me offers everything you need to get you beauty on, with a focus on supporting local; our community and our country. The epitome of customer service, you’re sure to enjoy meeting Tami and her team. Take my advice. It’s worth the drive to Elmira. Be sure to keep up with their latest news by liking them of Facebook and following their Twitter account.