Ever gone shopping in a vintage Airstream? Unless you’ve paid a visit to Elizabeth Avenue Station recently, your answer is probably no.
However, with an Airstream boutique now at Elizabeth Ave near Grandview Public Market, you can do just that. The luxe-bohemian clothing store has found a permanent home in the Elizabeth Ave courtyard. I caught up with owner and founder Brittany Reilly to chat about her vision for the boutique and what inspired her to make the move from New York City to West Palm Beach.
Do you have a background in fashion? What sparked your decision to create Bohemian Groove?
Before I launched my business two years ago, I was a personal shopper and stylist in Manhattan. Throughout college, I had many internships for high-end designers and stylists, and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising and Business from LIM College.
I was a personal shopper and stylist for about five years before the idea of Bohemian Groove started to develop. I began seeing how the food truck industry started to take over Manhattan (there’s one on every block!), and I thought to myself, Wow, what a perfect idea for a boutique: I could create a mobile clothing store, travel around, and sell cool clothing!
Another reason why having a mobile boutique appealed to me was that it would majorly reduce my overhead costs (no high Manhattan rent, no lease, etc.); it would be something I could afford. Prior to starting Bohemian Groove, I had absolutely no interest in owning a clothing boutique—probably due to my many years spent working in retail. I kind of felt like boutiques were too boring and routine for me.
What inspired your move to West Palm Beach? How has being here helped to shape or mold the growth of your brand?
When I started Bohemian Groove, I knew I wanted to eventually bring the Airstream down to Florida. I’ve been coming down to South Florida for family vacations since I was younger. However, I never thought I would be permanently down here with my boutique.
At the end of my summer season in New York City, I was trying to find some place to go for the winter because I obviously could not operate the Airstream in the freezing and snowy winter of New York. I started doing some research and came across Elizabeth Ave Station. I fell in love and knew this is where my Airstream needed to be. I messaged them on Instagram that day and received a super fast response. They were extremely intrigued by the idea of me being a permanent outdoor vendor in their courtyard because they had never had that before! We set up a plan for my move-in date and I was very excited for the road trip ahead because it would be my furthest drive yet with the Airstream. I hit the road at the end of January with the shiny bullet in tow, down to West Palm Beach from New York.
When people find out that I’m from New York and drove my boutique down to West Palm Beach, they always have a puzzled look on their face and say something along the lines of “What? Why would you ever move out of New York?!” But as you can imagine, everything in New York City is oversaturated; it’s no place for small businesses, because you become overpowered by the large corporations or, in my case, large retailers.
I learned very quickly when I settled down in West Palm Beach that this is where I need to be: what I was lacking in New York I found here. I found a community that not only has so many amazing small businesses, but also supports small businesses. I have been able to grow my brand tremendously down here because of the local community’s support and appreciation for what I have created.
How does the vibe of the Warehouse District (and Elizabeth Ave specifically) jive with the mission of your brand?
When I first saw the Warehouse District, and specifically Elizabeth Ave Station, it reminded me so much of home in New York City—but better! This also made the transition moving from New York to West Palm Beach much easier. There were plenty of markets back in Brooklyn, and in Manhattan, but Elizabeth Ave surpassed my expectations. I definitely did not think I would find a place like this in South Florida. Elizabeth Ave Station is a place that was established for the community of West Palm Beach to come and enjoy the creatives, musicians, makers, and artists that our area has to offer.
At Bohemian Groove you are not only shopping one-of-a-kind merchandise, you are shopping out of a completely renovated 1972 Airstream. We hope to provide our customers with a memorable experience and add a twist to the “average” retail store. We believe we are a perfectly unique addition to the Warehouse District. Plus, who doesn’t love a shiny Airstream?
Tell me a little bit about the Airstream renovation process. What was your vision for the final product?
The Airstream renovation took about one whole year and was done up in Plattsburgh, New York. We had to completely gut everything and keep only the shell, the belly, and some original windows and hardware, because everything else was completely rotted or just plain old.
Before purchasing my 1972 Airstream, I knew nothing about trailers or RVs, so I went into this renovation completely blind. The whole project was a major learning experience for me and made me appreciate the craftsmanship of a vintage vehicle. Things changed daily—what I wanted in the Airstream, what could actually be done in the Airstream, how we were executing my ideas—but my extensive background in retail and fashion came in handy in major ways, not only in designing the layout of the Airstream boutique but in the small details that were extremely important to me.
I knew from the beginning that I never wanted the design of the Airstream to overpower the merchandise that was being sold inside, so I kept it very clean, natural, and fresh. I was really nervous during the whole renovation process because when I saw what kind of work this actually entailed, I thought to myself that there was no way it would actually turn out the way I wanted it to. With a lot of hard work, patience, and tears, the renovation may have taken way longer than expected—initially I thought it was only going to take 3-4 months—but it surpassed any vision I ever had for the boutique.
Why is having an Airstream as the home of your boutique important to you? It’s unique and fun, of course, but how does it add to the shopping experience?
An Airstream is the most timeless, good ol’ “Americana” trailer anyone can own. Not only is it iconic, but it is aesthetically pleasing, too. There was nothing else out there that would have been able to portray my brand, Bohemian Groove, better than an Airstream. It is the epitome of wanderlust, freedom, and the open road.
The shopping experience is unlike any other, too. It’s not very often you can walk into a well designed 27-foot Airstream and buy cool clothing or accessories. The initial reaction when someone walks inside Bohemian Groove is usually, “Oh my god, I want to live in here! Do you live in here? This is my dream, and you’re living it.” The Airstream allows the customer to shop differently and is designed to make the customer feel like they are walking into a “Bohemian wonderland,” in a sense.
What kind of items can shoppers find at Bohemian Groove?
Bohemian Groove offers luxe bohemian-style clothing. We have everything from dresses (our best sellers) to bell bottoms, printed kimonos, and so much more. I like to say our Airstream boutique is built for the explorer, the adventuress, and the badass. Our girl is feminine, innovative, and a little rough around the edges. She is never afraid to wear what she wants and never bends to society’s demands.
What serves to draw customers to your retail experience rather than, say, shopping online with big-name retailers?
The retail industry has changed drastically in the last few years, with a lot of big-name stores actually closing their doors and e-commerce just being overly saturated. We have a lot of repeat customers who now know where to permanently find us, and they always come by when we post new arrivals.
I think a lot of people are shying away from shopping at big-name retailers and are instead shopping small because they know who and what they are actually supporting. Nowadays, the shopper is looking to purchase something different and unique, something you can’t find at Forever 21 or H&M, but that’s still offered at an affordable price. We do that at Bohemian Groove while providing the opportunity to shop in an Airstream.
What’s your favorite part of the boutique (or your favorite item that you sell)?
My favorite part of my boutique is curating the merchandise sold inside the Airstream. It makes my day when customers come into my boutique and say how well everything is picked out and displayed. I love being able to carry merchandise that you can’t find anywhere else. It gets even better when I get women to try on and purchase clothing they never thought would look good on them. This is why I do what I do.
Personally, I’m really digging all the animal prints that are in store now, especially a pair of our snake print leggings! I’m pretty sure my entire wardrobe consists solely of Bohemian Groove clothing now.
What do you hope or envision for the future of Bohemian Groove?
I really hope I can continue to grow my business down in West Palm Beach and have my Airstream boutique become very well known down here.
My dream one day would be to take the Airstream across the country and do different pop-ups along the way in each state we stop in. However, that takes an extreme amount of planning and time. For right now, I’m extremely content with hanging in Elizabeth Ave’s courtyard and spreading the groovy vibes.
You can follow Bohemian Groove on the Move for updates, new releases, and offers @bohemiangrooveonthemove on social media or www.bohemiangrooveonthemove.com. The boutique is located at 1500 Elizabeth Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Brittany Reilly, Founder of Bohemian Groove on the Move