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Thursday, May 13, 2021

A thread of Fringe

Fringe Boutique. // Photo by Susan Petris
Fringe Boutique. // Photo by Susan Petris

A little hard work pays off.

Fringe Boutique is the recent recipient of the Bellingham Alive’s Best Boutique bronze award.

Fringe founder Rhiannon Troutman said the store sells a little bit of everything, and her mission is to have the store be inviting to students, especially young women.

“It’s important to me to have affordable prices. I would say 90 percent of everything in the store is under $50, so I try to keep it reasonable for real people,” Troutman said.

Troutman tries to keep her products casual and versatile for shoppers.

“I’ve only ever worked for small businesses,” Troutman said. “I’ve never worked in corporate retail. I just love the community and the connections you get to make working downtown somewhere.”

Fringe founder Rhiannon Troutman

“I don’t do any prom dresses or things like that,” Troutman said. “But I do have some special occasion things, but in Bellingham special occasions are pretty casual.”

Troutman said she’s been in the retail business since she was 16-years-old and always dreamed of owning her own store.

“I’ve only ever worked for small businesses,” Troutman said. “I’ve never worked in corporate retail. I just love the community and the connections you get to make working downtown somewhere.”

Troutman went to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon where she studied sociology and anthropology. After graduating in 2011, she returned six years later to Bellingham to start her business, only to notice a change.

“There was a lot of new life being breathed into the city,” Troutman said. “A new generation of folks in Bellingham claiming it as their own and doing really new and excited things. It was exciting for me to be a part of that.”

Troutman was inspired to create Fringe after seeing a gap in Bellingham that she believed she could fill.

“I grew up here, and I felt that there weren’t any businesses or boutiques I could afford to shop in when I was growing up or that really catered to a younger style,” Troutman said.

Fringe Boutique. // Photo by Susan Petris
Fringe Boutique. // Photo by Susan Petris

A large part of the job is shopping for customers and Troutman said she found  her experience in retail helped find the right style for Fringe.

“I’ve developed a strict criteria of the things that I like,” Troutman said. “When I go on my buying trips, I have different archetypes in my head that I’m shopping for.”

Although Fringe sees a wide-range of customers, the majority are young women who are just starting careers, Troutman said.

Some women are looking to start professional wardrobes and others are fashionistas looking for new, unique pieces to add to their wardrobe, Troutman said.

The store is located on State Street, an up-and-coming area of Bellingham, Troutman said.

“I love where I’m located,” Troutman said. “Especially the block I’m on. There is a lot of new business opening up here. The city is really focusing on State Street in particular.”

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Fringe celebrated its one year anniversary.

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