More than ever, it seems people are finding some real opportunities in rural Nebraska when it comes to shopping local.
In the community of Imperial, you don't have to leave town to have a high-end shopping experience. All you have to do is visit "509 Broadway", owned by Tiffany Reeves. Reeves doesn't have a fashion merchandising background. "I've always enjoyed the challenge of retail, but I'm actually a registered nurse," Reeves said.
Seven years ago, Reeves decided, along with another friend, that Imperial could use a coffee shop and a local women's boutique. "I think a lot of businesses in small towns find that if they can combine two or more services under one roof, it works in a smaller community," Reeves said. "It just sort of snowballed into a little bit of a hobby, and the community was very gracious and embraced it."
Now Reeves' store, called 509 Broadway is a chic boutique that offers a full service coffee bar. "Everyone was curious if we going to sell products similar to Starbucks," Reeves said. "We do. We have lattes and cold drinks. Whatever you want, we can make it for you." The store specializes in clothing for babies, kids and women. "I would call our style contemporary casual," Reeves said.
The community of Imperial is certainly showing its support for this kind of shopping experience. "I would say maybe 95% of our customers are locals who live in the area," Reeves said. "Most of them are repeat customers." With larger shopping options as far away as Denver or Kearney, this store fills a need. "There are a few boutiques in the area, maybe Ogallala and McCook," Reeves said. "But it's a good 46 miles to anything similar to what we are doing here." 509 Broadway is even serving customers online now.
"Basically every product that is in the store is online," Reeves said. "It's not nearly as thriving as the brick and mortar, but we have a lot of shoppers that utilize that, too."
This Imperial store is an example of small boutiques are becoming popular in small towns. Another example would be the clothing store "Five Arrows" just next to the Shafer's General Store in Beaver City. In Neligh, you'll find Peas and Carrots, which is a gently used children's boutique. These kinds of stores are not only filling a need, but they are also serving as another reason to visit rural Nebraska. Tiffany Reeves says when she started her store in Imperial, she never thought about failure. "I guess I liked selling things on e-Bay way back when, when the internet just started, and so I don't know if that's where I decided this would be a fun challenge," Reeves said. "We started small, and just kept re-investing in ourselves. We kept growing with the demand, and we keep on going."