Coulee Creek knows firsthand how to intermix the stunning, historical pieces of Native American fashion with the romance and beauty of the American Cowboy. Hailing from North Dakota, Melanie Luger, owner of Coulee Creek, focuses on carrying signature high-end western fashion and accessories ranging from everyday pieces to looks that will be a mainstay in your closet for years to come. Melanie easily makes it onto our list of “Western Style Icons”, as she is always dressed to perfection and never goes anywhere without a smile on her face.
We asked Melanie to answer our fun interview questions, and she left us wanting to take a road trip to North Dakota, just to shop her store!
Tell us about life before owning a boutique? What consumed your life before fashion?
I raised my family and worked in state government with the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission and tribal-state relations for 15 years, prior to starting Coulee Creek.
What has been the most fun or exciting part of owning a boutique for you? The most challenging?
I love that as time goes on, you really get to know your customers. You learn their stories, what appeals to each of them and what their specific style is. I love when someone buys something and in my head, I think, “Yep, I knew she’d like that,”.
What’s in your closet? Do you have a go-to style?
I would describe my style as classic western chic, with a boho twist.
How does your style differ from that of your boutique? Or is your boutique a reflection of your style? Coulee Creek is definitely a reflection of my style. If I don’t like a piece or feel like I wouldn’t wear it, I don’t feel good trying to sell it to my customers.
Who’s been your role models – both in business and in style?
In business, my mother-in-law, Thelma. She ran a successful storefront on an Indian reservation in North Dakota. She worked hard and she knew her customers well. Her secret was keeping items that she knew were needed and items that were a “splurge”, so to speak. It really is all about finding that balance. In style, I’d have to say, of Ralph Lauren. He has my heart. He’s timeless, yet bold and classic. I love his style the best.
What’s your favorite retail season?
Fall is hands down my favorite season! The colors! The boots, jackets, and accessories!
What is your favorite social network and why?
I love Instagram! You can really get to the heart of someone’s story by seeing a few images of their life. What I love about Instagram, too, is what is I can discover or unravel by some hashtag searches.
What’s the best marketing strategy you’ve discovered?
Perfecting a flat lay has become my new obsession. It really has become a key strategy to help my customers envision what they would look like in the outfit.
If you could give advice to a young person, interested in fashion, and maybe one day hoping to start their own boutique – what would you tell them?
Be true to yourself and your customers. You have to love what you’re selling! If you don’t love your merchandise, you cannot convince somebody else to love it. Even through all of the trends and the fads, if you keep your passion, and you’re true, it will make your customers shine.
Owning a business is hectic, how do you unwind?
Unwinding is sometimes a tough thing to do! I feel like I’m always working. My eyes are always open for new, beautiful treasures to bring to my customers! Relaxing with a glass of wine or a cold beer, listening to some old vinyl and visiting with family and friends. Quality time with my two sweet, grandchildren. They keep me busy.
Is there anything big goals for you as a boutique owner that you are excited about reaching?
A joint goal I share with my daughter is opening a boutique in NYC. Jordan is a student there now and she’s really been doing some legwork and research. It’s an exciting goal to have.
What are some of the biggest fashion trends you’re anticipating to see at this year’s NFR?
Be on the lookout for Palczewski Longbrake purses and story belts. The work is beautiful and you cannot beat the fringe!
If you’re an NFR veteran, what’s one thing you’d recommend a Vegas -rookie to make time for while they’re in town?
The live music in town is off the hook! A few years back we caught Beyoncé, then Willie and LoCash in between at the MGM. Some of the best bands you’ll hear are playing free in Vegas!
Your boutique’s brand in three words…go!
Western, Vintage, Chic
How did your boutique get started? Any fun stories behind your name?
It all began with my love for making jewelry. I’d sit down after work a few times a week and make some pretty, sparkly pieces. Necklaces that I would wear to work, pair with outfits, etc. Friends and family would comment on my jewelry and ask where I got it. When I’d tell them that I had made it, they’d reply “Melanie, you should be selling this stuff!” I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it, honestly, because it was something I just loved to do. Over time, my jewelry sales grew. It only made sense to pair pieces with outfits that I would wear and display those. That’s how Coulee Creek got its first storefront in New Town. With so much love and support from my customers, I opened a second storefront in downtown Bismarck. My son’s name is Coulee and I thought it’d be a fun twist to add Creek behind it. That is how Coulee Creek was born.
When I walk into your boutique, what is the atmosphere like, how do you hope to make your customers feel?
First and foremost, I want them to feel welcome! I want my customers to know I’m there to help them, but not make them feel like I’m nagging. Coulee Creek in New Town is more fun-loving with lots of bright colors, and there is usually an old Waylon record playing. The Bismarck store is a little more uptown and glitzy. We definitely have the downtown vibes going on.
Tell us about the women who shop at your boutique?
I’m proud to say I have men and women shop Coulee Creek! One thing I can say for sure is that my customers are amazing! They represent all different backgrounds and ages, sizes, and styles. I love seeing my customers in something they’ve purchased – it’s very rewarding because it ranges from a formal work function in Washington D.C., or NYC, to a honky tonk in Texas or rodeo here in North Dakota. I’m blessed with some of the liveliest customers.
In your store now – what’s one steal and one splurge?
Currently, I have these rad, velvet, floral, kimonos. At $69 and $99, they are definitely a steal! A splurge at Coulee Creek will always be a kicka** pair of boots or a wicked turquoise piece – like a squash or pendant.
Which brands you carry are your personal go-to’s? Customer favorites?
Anything Double D Ranchwear, Flying Monkey Jeans and a killer graphic tee from either Midnight Rider!
What are some of the things you’re looking for when choosing a brand to carry?
Quality, affordability, and practicality for my customers. While it’s fun to splurge here and there, I know my customers and where their limits are.
How do you decide what to buy for your boutique?
If I don’t love the brand or can’t see myself wearing it, I cannot sell it to my customers. It’s my goal to have my customers happy and feeling good about themselves.
What’s been the best marketing decision you’ve made?
Teaming up with the Boutique Hub! Honestly, it’s opened new doors for Coulee Creek and I’ve met quite a few new customers, too.
Do you use outside models and photographers or do you keep those things in-house?
Do you work with bloggers or influencers? If so, what do you look for in an influencer or blogger before working with them, and what kind of expectations do you have in a collaboration/partnership?
This is a great question. Coulee Creek has always wanted to explore that kind of partnership. Maybe that is something 2018 will bring.
If your boutique dressed a celebrity daily – who would it be?
Miranda Lambert every day. However, I’ve got to say, Margo Price is channeling all of my inner vintage vibes. Her music and her look are everything right now. She is emulating that Americana, classic style that is part of Coulee Creek’s backbone.
What a fabulous interview!! We are so impressed with Melanie and her vision for Coulee Creek, we can’t wait to see where 2018 takes them!
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