Ali on the Boulevard brings boutique shopping experience to customers virtually
SOUTH BEND, Ind.—For 18 years, Ali Patel has passionately provided clothing and accessories to women both near and far, from her beginnings at a farmer’s market stand to her current brick and mortar store on Jefferson Boulevard.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michiana and restrictions on in-person sales and services went into place, Patel knew she needed to get creative in order for her longtime boutique to survive.
“Our numbers were up and talking to other boutique owners, their numbers were up, too,” Patel said. “Now, it looks like we’re kind of closing but in reality, we’ve reorganized our store to suit our web based business.”
Patel quickly dove into her work and along with her team, created a whole new website for Ali on the Boulevard.
“I definitely have to work a lot harder right now,” Patel said.
In an effort to still bring the boutique shopping experience to her quarantined customers, Patel began doing a series of Facebook Live shopping events that quickly became a regular part of the day.
“We’ve been doing the Facebook lives at noon Monday through Saturday, we try to give education along with fun, lightheartedness and also we try to showcase things in our community that people can buy,” Patel said, adding that the most popular items are cozy sweatshirts and candles.
During her videos, Patel shares some of her favorite merchandise, ranging from jewelry to t-shirts. Customers can tune in and purchase items right in the comment sections.
“You just comment the item number, we send you an invoice, you pay, and then we will either ship it or if it’s local, deliver it ourselves,” Patel said.
Ali on the Boulevard now offers free local delivery for purchases made online during the pandemic.
The South Bend native said that the pandemic has definitely impacted her business, though, especially in terms of acquiring new merchandise, as warehouses and distributors remain closed down.
Patel said now that stimulus checks are dropping into people’s bank accounts, things are looking up.
“We've seen an uptick in online sales,” Patel said. “Before you make that Amazon purchase, think about us. Do we have what you’re looking for?”
Though a challenge, Patel isn’t letting the pandemic stop her business from growing.
“We’re set to launch a jewelry collection with a yoga class, with one of the gals that’s on the team. She’s a yoga instructor and we created a jewelry collection to go with the class,” Patel said, adding that the new collection and virtual yoga class will be released in the near future.