Linda Burton sees it all the time: a customer comes in looking for a coat and leaves with a lamp. Another seeks the perfect pair of pants, and finds a great cushion instead.
Burton and partner Holly Devlin, owners of Cricket in Wichita, Kansas, are firm believers in offering choices to the consumer. So much so that what started out as a small boutique selling a limited selection of contemporary women’s clothes has now tripled in size and offers a staggering variety of, well, stuff. There are chandeliers and oil paintings, silk floral arrangements and embroidered pillows. And although Burton and Devlin put in almost $450,000 into expanding their boutique, they’re not quite done yet.
Later this year, Cricket is moving a couple of blocks down the street, changing its name and almost doubling in size. Come Thanksgiving, the decade-old store will be known as "Eccentricity," will take up some 4,000 square feet of space, and will carry even more diverse merchandise, including plants, fountains and statues. There will also be a cafe serving tea and gourmet sandwiches and salads. "It really will be a one-stop shop," said Burton.
This extent of retail diversification is a reflection of a trend sweeping retailers across the country. While it’s one thing for larger stores to offer a variety of services, for example, the Fred Segal cafe in Los Angeles and New York’s Rem-Koolhaas-designed Prada boutique, which is outfitted with a performance space), smaller independent boutiques are also getting in on the act. In addition to trying on a new pair of low-slung jeans, shoppers can also order flowers, pick up a brioche, get their hair cut, take in a dance performance — and even participate in a yoga class.
"For us, it was a way to give something back," said Tamara Tatkus, owner of Chicago store Clever Alice, which carries fashion-forward lines like Tufi Duek from Brazil and Twist and Tango, a Swedish line. Last year, Tatkus introduced Wednesday evening yoga classes, which are held in a wide open space in the middle of the 1,200-square-foot store. The wooden floors, high cathedral ceilings and sense of airiness are perfect for a meditative, relaxing activity.