We're Still Standing! We're Still Going Strong!

October 14, 2019

The West Des Moines Chamber is going to be at K. Renee this Thursday, October 17 at 4 pm, to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the fact that we have been doing business at our location for 20 years.

   

Most of you may know that Kelli and Jeff Schulz started K. Renee (standing for Kelli Renee) several years before (1988 to be exact) coming to West Des Moines operating out of her Gladbrook farm, followed by a boutique in Ames, Iowa. There she built a serious fashionista following.

Newspaper ad, circa 1998


Lucky for all of us, in 1999, a growing and thriving K. Renee opened for business, here in West Des Moines in our own Governor Square.   

 



As a local brick and mortar business, being in business and continuing to grow is no easy proposition for sure. We, like you, have been through our fair share of ups and downs, twists and turns, and economic pressures.   

 

Did you know that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year? And 70% of small business owners go out of business by their 10th year of business? It takes passion, patience, perseverance, and purpose...all of which Kelli and Jeff certainly had.

 

So, just how are we surviving and thriving? Let me start at the beginning of our journey in West Des Moines, Iowa in the Fall of 1999 (20 years ago.) 

Kelli and Jeff Schulz decided to move their growing women's clothing boutique to West Des Moines along with their passion and philosophy of personalized service and a commitment to individual style.  I know that Kelli was born to be in the business of style. It is truly her life passion. She has an eye for the extraordinary.    

 

Armed with passion and a vision, they acquired a retail space (here at Governer Square) that had previously been another family-owned women's boutique. As you can see from the before and after pictures above, creating beautiful spaces has always been in her blood as well.  

Honestly, Kelli is gonna kill me for sharing these early pictures, but I thought you would love to see them as much as I enjoyed finding them.   (Sorry, Kel!)  I also found a newsletter that was released in 1999. And in it, you can clearly see Kelli's vision for a lifestyle business that would ultimately expand into home furnishings.    

During the last 20 years, K. Renee has battled uncontrollable lows and embraced hard-earned highs. Imagine opening a new business and then almost immediately facing the economic impacts of 9/11, the 2002- 2004 Dot.com crash?

Or facing the 2008 Great Recession, which lasted over 17 months?   

 

To stay in business during those difficult times was nothing less than heroic, in my opinion.  And to those of you who were clients with K. Renee during that time, you are the greatest heroes of all.  A business like ours is nothing without all of you.  

But clearly, there were more highs than lows in K. Renee's rich history as this business has not only survived but thrived.  

I wish I could say that I had a hand in the success of K. Renee in its first decade of business in West Des Moines, but I did not. However, I had the pleasure of being a customer of this great business and experienced first-hand the extraordinary service, the dedicated staff, and inspiring products that brought me an incredible amount of joy and personal confidence.    

How do you put a price tag on standing with confidence?  Or having a husband who loved the way you look?   Or even more important, loving the way you look?  You can't.   And I am proud to have invested in myself during the too short time that I got to spend with my fabulous husband.  

Okay, you get it... I was a huge fan of what K. Renee brought to my life, which means it was even more serendipitous that I had the opportunity to join this fabulous business as a partner in 2012 as we expanded into HOME.  

 

2012 - K. Renee Home is born

 

Yet, despite our consistent growth and expansion, we still face adversity (but don't we all?) I love this quote:  What a beautiful thing it is, to be able to stand tall and say, "I fell apart, and I survived."   

 

 

We are surviving the internet. 20 years ago, the internet wasn't really a threat to local brick and mortar businesses. In 1999, less than half of our population ever accessed the internet, let alone shopped through it. But now, 89% of adults do.   

And if I am candid, it has not only hurt us but the entire retail industry. We are now in the middle of what is being called the RETAIL APOCALYPSE.  

 

 

The internet has created this frenzy called price discounting. And almost every major retailer jumped on the bandwagon of offering unprecedented discounts attempting to capture their share of business at the expense of their own business. Yeah, discount wars might seem like a good thing...but it is not.

Victoria's Secret (among many, many others) is closing 53 of their flagship stores because they can't afford them. And if you can afford to keep your doors open, you certainly can't invest in staff, nor bring new products and services to the market.

Macy's, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Barney's...are all closing many of their doors because they can't afford to keep them open. So sad. For them. For us.  

 

Is that what we all really want? To not be able to enjoy the experience of shopping locally? To not be about to touch, see, or try on merchandise? Or to not have personal interaction and connections?   I don't think so.

I'm guilty too. I've shopped online. But now, being a small business owner, I do my best, wherever possible, to keep my business here in town.    

 

It's the right thing to do.   It's economically important for our community to think about straying a bit more from the internet frenzy. And it is not just about us, it is about our community.  Did you know that it pays to shop locally? According to Forbes magazine, for every $100 you spend locally, $68 of that will flow into salaries for local employees, resources, and other community expenses. #goSHOPLOCAL

 

So we fight.    

 

 

We fight by continually thinking about you and how we can provide unexpected experiences, personal relationships, and extraordinary service. We strive to offer you something more than products. We strive to share our talent, expertise, and vision for how to help you create a beautiful home or wardrobe.

 

And most importantly, we strive to earn your trust and commitment to us.  

And now, we take a moment to savor the moment and just how far we have come in 20 years in West Des Moines. At 4 pm on Thursday, October 17, the West Des Moines Chamber will be here to honor us with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Kelli will say a few words about the passion, patience, purpose, and perseverance that it has taken (and will continue) to require to grow and succeed.

 

 

 

And then, we will cut some cake, raise a glass, and get ready for the next twenty years.  I hope you can join us. It would mean a lot.