A University of Wisconsin-Stout hidden gem on campus is the Niche Boutique. The Niche is a student-run boutique that initially was founded by the retail merchandising program and now is combined with the apparel design program, which includes the major fashion and retail. The retail-focused students are the ones who helped get the Niche up and running again after shutting down because of COVID-19.
Due to the unfortunate and unexpected passing of a well-recognized professor, George Duychak, who used to help run and mentor the Niche, the current spring 2021 semester class had to start from scratch. Although the students were in shock, they were determined to get the Niche back up and running.
The professor who took over the spring 2021 semester for the Niche is Sarah Eileen. With no prior experience of leading the Niche class, Eileen had to start from the ground up.
Eileen said she is, “A big believer in learning by doing, and this course has been a great example of that.”
Abbygail Peterson, who is in her fifth year in the retail merchandising major, was able to bring insight to Eileen and the current class as the Niche assistant. Eileen said, “We would be pretty lost without Abby!”
By being the Niche assistant, Peterson said her favorite part so far helping the spring semester class out is “seeing all the girls experiencing what she got to experience last semester” with Duychak. The Niche Boutique is operated like any boutique; except it is student-operated. The students get assigned roles in which they can buy merchandise and do inventory.
Jaysa Young, a senior in the retail merchandising major, is the head of hospitality for the Niche. Young said the biggest struggle with reopening the Niche was switching professors because they had to start from the bottom and work their way to the top. All the students helping run the Niche put in a lot of time and effort, and their new professor noticed. Eileen said she loves “watching the students take ownership of their work” and the “excitement is palpable and it is contagious.”
When it comes to bringing awareness to the Niche, it can be challenging since most classes have converted to online. With the decrease in student population, the staff at the Niche had to take on different marketing strategies.
Makayla Dual, the lead buyer for accessories, said they are continuing to put up posters around campus and have a social media person to post on Instagram. Since the majority of the students are online, the Niche needs to push marketing on social media. The Niche also plans to expand their social media presence in other ways.
The Niche Boutique is finally coming back together after the hard work of students. Supporting on-campus businesses is more important than ever. The Niche is open Mon. through Thurs. from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m in Hertiage Hall on the second floor.
Be sure to check out the stylish clothing they offer and tag them on social media for a chance to be featured on Instagram.
In a recent email from Belina McCormick Banike, the fashion and retail business department program director said the BURTL-450/451 will be retired after this spring 2021 semester. It is now or never to go get an original piece from the Niche, before it is gone from UW-Stout once again.
On a happier note, all merchandise at the Niche is 50 percent off until the end of the school year.
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