Susan King Steiner and Jeanette Dvorak met only once before they started working together.
But once they did, it seemed inevitable they would go on to develop of chain of Bangles & Bags boutiques, which offer affordable handbags and accessories, including a new store on Underwood Avenue in Wauwatosa.
"She had six years of experience with vendors. I had the fashion merchandising degree and experience with marketing and buying," Dvorak said. "When we started working together, it was like the pieces of the puzzle really started fitting together."
Steiner had run a real estate company before starting Bangles & Bags in 2004. Even though she had no retail experience, a boutique she stumbled upon in Florida made her think she could turn her idea to offer affordable accessories into a business.
"She started in a small space tucked behind a custard stand in Delafield," Dvorak said.
The store was sorted by color, with handbags under $50 and jewelry and accessories under $24. Earrings sold for as low as $3, and most necklaces for $16 or $17. Within a year, the shop moved to Main Street, where it has been ever since.
By 2008, Dvorak wanted a change from her work as a hospital gift-shop buyer. After a summer off, she began part-time at the Delafield store.
When Steiner opened a store in Waukesha, the women talked about marketing and further expansion. In January 2010, Steiner invited Dvorak to start another shop in the Third Ward in Milwaukee. A store in Cedarburg followed in 2011.
Even before Cedarburg, the women thought about a store in Wauwatosa.
"We had never found the right location. And it's all location, location, location," Dvorak said.
Last year, that changed.
"At the time, we weren't thinking about expanding. But we saw the location (on Underwood), and we've always loved Wauwatosa, so we decided to jump into it," Dvorak said.
So far, they're very pleased.
"It's a close-knit community. It's merchant-oriented. They host events," said Dvorak, who is already looking ahead to Ladies Night Out in August.
"I love the fact that we hear from women that they had a fun experience in our store," Dvorak said. "… It's fun knowing what you're choosing and what you're doing is making people feel better."
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JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Bangles & Bags, 1504 Underwood Ave.
PHONE: (414) 258-4534
OWNER: Susan King Steiner and Jeanette Dvorak
INCORPORATED: 2004 (2012 for the Tosa store)
TYPE OF BUSINESS: handbags and accessories
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