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Elmira shop owner finds she enjoys being her own boss

It’s not every day that an employee at a clothing store succeeds her boss to become the new owner after only a few years, but that is just such the story for entrepreneur Lori-Anne Dronick. Taking the reins of the former FB and Me fashion shop in downtown Elmira, the new owner is hosting a grand opening this Saturday for her enterprise, L.A. Beauty Boutique.

Dronick did not imagine taking a liking to the expanded pressures of running her own business, but she’s had ample time to grow into the role. Even before she officially took over the business on July 1, Dronick had a good deal of preparation with her former employer, Tami Runstedler, who “groomed” her for the role in the last year, though Dronick did not know it at the time.

“I was kind of just thinking that I wanted my own place, but I just kept saying to myself, ‘I’m not really ready, I don’t know,’” explains Dronick. But when Runstedler approached her to say she was selling the business, and offered Dronick the first opportunity to take over, Dronick decided to finally go for it.

She bought the store along with the stock as is, which allowed her to hit the ground running.

“I just kept it open because I pretty much bought the stock and everything, and then I’ve just been doing little tweaks here and there when I can. Making it more like me, I guess,” she says of the transition.

The store focuses on carrying a range of women’s clothing that span situations from weddings to business to casual.

“We try to carry a lot of Canadian brands made in Canada. We try to stick with that,” she says. “And age group is pretty much like anywhere from mid-20s up to like 70-, 80-year-olds. So it’s a big, wide range.”

Dronick explains that what originally attracted her to the store was the distinct style available at FB and Me, something she’s hoping will continue to bring in new customers.

“I guess what brought me here was, when I go to the mall I find every store pretty much has the exact same thing. Whereas when I came here, it was something different. And then when I wore it, I would always get a ton of compliments. I hear that from customers all the time, too,” she says.

Alongside the merchandise, Dronick inherited a loyal customer-base from FB and Me, as well as the previous store’s reputation in the community, which Dronick is looking to continue.

“We’re very honest with customers, and I guess a lot of people respect that too. We’re not just trying to make a sale, so we end up making relationships with our customers. Maybe it’s because it’s a smaller town you can do that,” she says.

“But if something doesn’t look good or whatever, we will say, ‘Like no,’” she laughs. “’Go back in the dressing room and try something else on.’”

The grand opening is going to be a heady affair with catering from Never Enough Thyme down the street, some store prizes, and some special deals for the prodigious early Christmas shopper or snappy dresser.

Still sharing the premises is Shelley Cassel and Shelley’s Salon. People, both men and women, can still come and get their tonsorial needs taken care of by the expert hairdresser, who is situated within the clothing store.

“We’re a team,” says Cassel. “Yes, I’d say we’re definitely a team. We have to be. Her

New shop owner Lori-Anne Dronick with salon operator Shelly Cassel.

customers and my customers use the front door and it works well because my clients when they’re here shop and browse.”

She notes there’s a natural synergy between the salon and the clothing store which works out quite well for both their businesses.

“They think haircuts cost $400 – their husbands,” she says of her customers. “Because they get their hair done and then they come and buy clothes,” adds Cassel as both women laugh.

Cassel will also be at the grand opening, with a collection of hair products available as prizes to those who come by.

Clothing, hairdressing; and now make-up artistry will be on offer, as Dronick is bringing her expertise as a make-up artist to the store. Formerly a part-time venture of hers when she was not working at the store, her make-up business is being incorporated as a new feature right into L.A. Beauty Boutique’s retinue of goods and services, with a brand-new make-up room in the works.

“I’m busy almost every weekend doing weddings and stuff like that, so I needed something instead of doing it out of my house,” explains Dronick about her make-up business.

“So now she’s going to bring her make-up here, which I think is a good fit for all of us too,” adds Cassel.

Dronick says she offers a variety of make-up services, from bridal to parties to holidays, to even Halloween special-effects. She also teaches lessons in applying make-up.

But clothing is still front and center at the L.A. Beauty Boutique, and Dronick is still learning the ropes of running her own business.

“So far, so good, yes. No complaints no [stress],” she says. “I’m not stressed, like that’s what a lot of people think … and I’m like ‘no’, this is like the one thing in my life I’ve actually been the most comfortable and relaxed [with]. So it’s good. It’s a great feeling.”

Dronick admits that she did not expect to enjoy owning her own business.

“I didn’t think I would like it, to be honest. I think that’s why I pushed it off for so long, but it’s actually going very well and I really like it.”

The grand opening of L.A. Beauty Boutique is this Saturday (November 18) during regular store hours.

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