Sharing shop offers double reason to visit 25 Squires Street

PAIRING UP—Sharon Serschen and Wendy Barnes are excited to share retail space in downtown Rockford. The two hope offering Serschen’s accessories and Barne’s Merle Norman products will be a winning combination.

PAIRING UP—Sharon Serschen and Wendy Barnes are excited to share retail space in downtown Rockford. The two hope offering Serschen’s accessories and Barne’s Merle Norman products will be a winning combination.

Accessories Ltd. buddies up with
Merle Norman

She’s back, and she’s not alone. Shoppers may remember Sharon Serschen, former Rockford retailer who sold her business and left town four years ago. On October 10, 2009, she opened doors again in her newest store—the sixth for this die-hard boutique owner—but this time she isn’t going it alone. Serschen has teamed up with Wendy Barnes of Merle Norman, who herself just made a move from her most recent location on Courtland Street to 25 Squires Street. Serschen is offering jewelry, handbags and other clothing accessories from the location with her new business, Accessories Ltd.

“We’ve really been talking about it for years,” Barnes said of the joint operation. “It happened like God planned it.” She believes the Merle Norman concept of personal attention and “try before you buy” will fit in with Serschen’s boutique. The two friends from Serschen’s years in Rockford look forward to sharing the space along the White Pine Trail and near many other retailers.

Serschen said she is “either smart or dumb,” opening another store, but said she isn’t ready to retire and watch television. “I want to die on my feet,” she stated. “I also really enjoy the customer contact. I’ve really missed that.”

Serschen took four years off, leaving Rockford for Traverse City to spend time with an aunt with health problems. “Now she is back in Florida and I’m back in Rockford.”

Serschen said she will not miss Traverse City and hates that it snows every day up there. She also said the town is much more seasonal, which is harder for boutique owners who have to pay rent all year around. Rockford, in her opinion, is not seasonal at all, and the location couldn’t be more prime. She said she chooses her inventory based on what she likes. “I have very good taste,” she remarked. Free gift-wrapping was one of the customer service perks she offered before and plans to continue that at Accessories Ltd.

Going into business for yourself is always a risk, but Serschen believes she is prepared for success. “People have the misconception that you start making money right away,” she said. “It can be four or five years and you still aren’t making money.”

With a tough economy, she thinks the process may even be longer than that now. “It used to be that in five years you would start to see it turn over. And that was when times were good and people were really buying.” She said people think every dollar that goes in your till is a dollar you get to keep. At least half of any money brought in has already been spent on inventory, plus there are costs with running the shop itself.

Still, Serschen is confident her former customers, and plenty of new ones, will eventually get her past the break-even point, and she is ready to wait it out. “I’m prepared for that. I was prepared four years ago with my other store and I’m prepared for that now.”

Serschen said she believes Rockford is a great town for business because there are so many stores for shoppers to visit. She also likes that merchants work together and try not to sell identical items. She chose jewelry and accessories because she believes they are a fun purchase to make. “Jewelry is a fun pick-me-up,” she said. “It’s like lipstick. You get a new look with a new piece.”

Barnes is excited about the new store as well. She moved on October 4 to Squires Street and thinks she will see more traffic there. She is also happy to celebrate her business’ anniversary. She opened her doors in October 2005. She said her business isn’t seasonal either, although people wear different colors of make-up in different seasons.

They are both happy to be settled in Rockford, although both are from different parts of the state. “I think the family-type community is one reason I chose Rockford,” Barnes said. “It is also a charming, beautiful town.”

Serschen said her sentiments are the same. She first visited Rockford because her son lives here, and after her stay in Traverse City she is pleased to be back.

Visit with either shop owner during open hours of Merle Norman and Accessories Ltd. during regular hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

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