Walter appeals to Savvy shoppers
When Allyson Walter purchased Olive’s & Complete Petite clothing shop in Ames, from Bob and Marcia Mechem in 1996, she got an established name and a loyal clientele. On the other hand, the store was such a fixture that it was difficult for Walter to move the store with the times.
“I saw changes in the needs of customers and the way people shop,” she said. “When I first bought the shop, ladies would come in and spend the afternoon buying their entire fall wardrobe August 1. As time passed, I saw that customers, especially younger customers, would come in every week or every few weeks and buy pieces here and there.”
In 1996 her customers were willing to pay full retail prices for a wide selection, but in recent years she has seen them grow hungrier for bargains. In February 2003, she closed Olive’s and in March opened the Savvy Shopper Inc., an outlet store.
“I work with all different companies and all different brand names, price points, and levels of fashion from conservative to high style,” she said. “I have clothes a teen would wear to high school, and I have clothes a 90-year-old would wear. I take whatever I can get at a discount. I get new merchandise each week, and I never know what I’m going to get until I open the box.”
At first she worried that not having a variety of sizes for each item of apparel would hurt her business, but she has since found that many of her customers enjoy the hunt.
Walter grew up in Ames and received a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising from Iowa State University in 1988. She then joined Spiegel Catalogues in Oakbrook, Ill. where she worked for two years as an assistant buyer and inventory control specialist. In 1990 she joined Limited Corp.’s Intimate Brands, where she worked for the next six years. Walter was a store manager for Victoria’s Secret stores in Iowa, Connecticut and Florida and a store manager, recruiter and store opener for Bath and Body Works stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In 1996, she returned to Ames and bought Olive’s.
“I had worked for the owners, the Mechems, in high school,” she said. “They found out that I had moved back to the Ames area and approached me about buying the business from them.”
Despite her busy schedule running a business and raising an 11-year-old son, Bobby Doud, Walter has become active in Ames. She recently finished a three-year term on the board of directors of the Ames Chamber of Commerce, and is on the executive committees of Young Professionals of Ames and the Ames Main Street District.
“As a small business owner, I feel a responsibility to get involved in the community,” she said.