#IAMNICHE - Katie Zehnder of Emilie B's

January 23, 2018


Q: Tell us about your journey.



I have always had a passion for retail and when it came time to declare a major at Michigan State marketing and retail seemed like the perfect fit. Unlike most undergrad students, I stuck with it and couldn’t be happier I did. 


Throughout my college career I had amazing experiences and internships with the Limited Brands in East Lansing, Nordstrom in Chicago, and Henri Bendel in New York City. After graduation I worked for Kohl’s Department stores in Grand Rapids where I learned from the ground up retail operations in a large capacity. In 2013, I moved back to Frankenmuth where I joined the family business.


At this time, Emilie B’s was just at its beginnings. Initially the store was targeted at more of a mature audience. My goal was to make it a boutique where the styles and fashions could appeal to multiple generations. With a revised buying strategy, updated merchandising, and rebranding, the store started to take on a new look and feel. While it was not initially a place where younger girls shopped, they were now finding cute outfits at the same store their mom was. As time evolved this trend was happening more and more and our business continued to grow.  With that Mom and Daughter focus, we continue to strive for excellence in styling services and product procurement with an emphasis on unique clothing and accessories for a range of ages and body types.


Emilie B was my great grandmother and I could not tell the story better that my 95 year old Grandma Dorothy. Together we told the story of Emilie Bickle Zehnder in this video. The video does not talk much about Grandma Dorothy but she is definitely very much a part of my business journey.   At 95 years old, she works 6 days a week in the Bavarian Inn Restaurant kitchen and is my inspiration in work ethic, passion, and drive for success.


Q: Biggest Success:

A: I am blessed to work with a very dedicated and loyal team who are just as passionate about style and service as I am.  I am very proud of the growth we as a team have had in customer retention and sales and am excited to keep that trend going. 


Q: Biggest Struggle:

A: As a buyer it is challenging to purchase things you do not necessarily “like” or care for. However, I have learned it is extremely important to keep an open mind when purchasing clothing and accessories because something you might not wear could be very appealing to someone else.  I have been proven wrong time after time from experiences when something comes in that I would never buy and it sells out in days.  At buying shows I now spend more time searching for items “I don’t like”. Haha


Q: What's Your #Niche:

A: As mentioned above our niche in our boutique is being a place where Moms and Daughters can shop together and both find something that complement their style and budget.


Q: Where Do You See Retail Industry in 10 years:

A: While the trend will certainly gravitate more and more to digital platforms I still believe there will be strength in brick and mortar. The level of customer service shop owners and team members can provide will always exceed that experience online. With a continued focus of shop owners being involved in their communities, sourcing unique products, and giving exceptional service - long live small businesses!


*Emilie B’s window decal picture was taken by Eleven Creative



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