As Marcia Bourke and the community of Wingham prepare to celebrate the 20th annniversary of Ashlea Road Boutique, Marcia reflects on the history of her shop.
It was Marcia’s good friends Vicki and Brian Wilson who first had the idea of opening a women’s fashion boutique in Isabella Street back in 1997.
Marcia was working in child care at the time and the Wilson’s were well known local dairy farmers.
Armed with a strong vision for their store, Marcia and Vicki went to see a business expert for some advice.
“It was all doom and gloom,” explained Marcia.
“We were told we wouldn’t succeed because we needed a lot of money behind us and more experience.”
Marcia and Vicki walked out of the meeting and burst out laughing.
Undeterred by the negativity they started their store with just $10,000 each.
Each week they would sell their stock and head to Sydney with the money they had made and buy more clothes.
The shop was a roaring success.
Marcia and Vicki kept up a crazy pace for the next five years re-investing in new stock lines and they even purchased the building.
But deregulation of the farming industry forced Vicki and Brian to make an important decision about the direction of their farm and they ended up relocating to Tamworth.
Marcia bought her friend Vicki out and continued to build Ashlea Road Boutique's profile by expanding into the store next door and stocking well known labels which were exclusive to the Manning Valley.
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Like any business that has survived 20 years there have been ups and downs for Marcia. The introduction of GST in 2000 made a noticable difference to the shop and then the rise of internet shopping has further impacted Marcia and her store.
“I’ve had the inclination to sell when things get too hard,” Marcia admits.
“But something inside me keeps telling me to push through.”
The biggest joy for Marcia over the past 20 years has been the connections she has made with customers, staff and suppliers.
“I’ve always had great support from local customers and repeat business from customers all over the country.
“It’s been lovely to make good friends, that’s the part of the business I really love.”
And Marcia is quick to point out that Ashlea Road Boutique is what it is today because of the great staff she has employed over the years.
From Marcia’s own daughter Sarah and local school children to the “wonderful support” for nearly 10 years of Dana Wooster, Marcia has had a supportive team behind her all the way.
Join Marcia on Friday March 17 between 9am – 7pm to celebrate 20 years of Ashlea Road Boutique.
Find out more on the Ashlea Road Facebook page