Blackbird shop attracts all ages | Millennium
Providing comfortable and affordable women’s fashion is a primary goal for Ali Woods, owner of The Blackbird.
“I have a wide range of sizes, from small to 3XL, because I want everyone to be welcome, and I mean everyone,” said Woods.
“I try to treat those who stop to shop the way I would like to be treated, and when ordering merchandise I make sure to keep the different age groups in mind. Like, what would my mother, my grandmother, my younger sisters wear?
“There are a lot of people in Mankato, and I want to try to cover all the bases.”
Woods’ boutique debuted in August 2019 as a pop-up store, with items sold in his eye-catching pink 1963 Shasta Airflyte trailer (his “Birdie”) at various locations across the region. Despite increasing sales and developing a fan base, Woods has discovered some limits with a mobile operation.
After shivering through a 28-degree pop-up on a cold weekend last fall, Woods began to consider other possibilities. Last winter, she occasionally rented empty storefronts on Riverfront Drive for short stays.
“It allowed me to live the good life of being out of the elements, and I knew I would like to do something more permanent,” said Woods.
When the historic brick building at 1434 North Broad Street (previously home to a grocery store, home decor store, and antique store, among others) became available for rent, Woods jumped on it.
“I hadn’t wanted the overhead expense of owning a building, but I couldn’t pass it up because I really wanted to keep going through the winter months,” said Woods, who opened the new location on May 27.
“I am very happy to have taken the plunge and decided to hang up the space; I am happy with the location, the owner and all the customers who have come to find me, and everything has been going very well so far, ”she said.
Woods, who graduated from Mankato East High School in 2011, is a natural entrepreneur. Although she took classes at South Central Technical College after high school, she says most of her retail skills come from her hands-on experience.
“It’s the best way to learn for me,” said Woods. “Right out of high school, I started my own wedding decorating business and did it for seven years.
“It’s just who I am; I’m a doer, not someone who just sits and waits. I do things fast and well.
This includes finding women’s clothing and accessories that appeal to a wide range of women, including women of different age groups, sizes, and ethnicities, and at a price – $ 100 or less for almost everything – the most can easily swallow.
“I’m talking to everyone,” she said simply. “I like looking for things you don’t see on people everyday, unique finds – maybe something with decals, different cutouts, a little flair, ruffles, not just T-shirts or “Plain Jane” sweatshirts with logos.
“I like to give something away that you can’t find in a big box store.”
Currently, dresses, blouses, denim jeans, palazzo pants, sweaters, cardigans, coats and jackets, listed by Woods, are available.
She is also willing to respond to customer inquiries.
“I always take feedback, so when someone said, ‘I want a skort,’ I went and ordered some,” Woods said.
“Or if I hear, ‘I want a maxi dress this color,’ I’ll try to find something because I want to please my clients and meet their needs.”
Recently, Woods added a vintage chic section, featuring fur coats from the 50s and 70s, as well as vintage “mom” jeans.
“I’m waiting for the college girls to come and buy them,” Woods said of the on-trend jean style.
In addition to clothing, The Blackbird offers costume jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings), hats (from wool fedoras to pom pom caps), blankets and scarves with overflow, gloves, mittens and the line Guileless Green organic skin care products (soaps, lotions, balms, soy wax candles, bath salts, aromatherapy rollers) made by Jessica Peters of the Center.
Woods and Peters have logged in as complementary vendors on pop-up sites. Peters, who makes all of his products by hand from organic ingredients, enthusiastically supports his friend and fellow entrepreneur.
“I love Ali’s overall vibe,” said Peters. “She incorporates her own style and fashion sense, but also keeps in mind the need for a wide range of style and size selections, and she is very tuned into the seasons to come.
“Ali has a wonderful strategy, trying to get items that you don’t see everywhere else, and her buyers really appreciate that she has clothes in so many sizes because everyone should be able to be cute.”
Woods’ upbeat and sunny demeanor contradicts the fact that she has faced personal challenges.
After marrying her husband Logan in late June 2020, the National Guard was deployed for a 13-month tour of Afghanistan on August 1, 2020.
“So this was all done without my better half here,” said Woods, who is nonetheless grateful for a “good support system” of friends and family that helped her open her store.
“The technology is great, however, we could still talk while I made decisions and I could show her everything while I set it up,” she said.
With the recent army withdrawal from Afghanistan, Logan was able to return home in July, a little earlier than originally planned.
Woods has acquired loyal customers along the way, first through its pop-up efforts and now through its brick and mortar site.
Among The Blackbird’s devotees is Mankato resident Lora Brady, who served as a real role model for Woods at one point.
“Ali has made great strides in including all kinds of options and opportunities for his clients,” Brady said.
“What really caught my attention was that she doesn’t limit her choices based on height or age. I’m 55 and I’m generally quite selective about what I wear.”
Brady checks to see that Woods exudes positivity, energy, and a taste for fashion.
“He’s a very passionate and inspiring person,” Brady said. “I was impressed with her from day one because she’s ready to outfit all the different generations and she puts it all together in an appealing way. “
Woods says she just does what she loves.
“My philosophy is that comfort is key, especially right now, but so is confidence,” said Woods.
When you walk through the door with something that makes you feel like you’re ready to conquer your day, it’s great. The best advice I can give is to do what you can to bring out that confidence. “