Published On: Friday, 10 August 2018
MainStreet Clothing Co Wins Top Business Award
KAMLOOPS– Something wonderful can happen when you take an individual with an instinctive sense of style and you add to that an unquenchable love of community – if you’re very lucky you end up with Kamloops’ MainStreet Clothing Co. The store was just voted the winner of the 2018 Business of the Year Award at the Okanagan Business Excellence Awards.
Opened nearly 20 years ago the MainStreet Clothing Co. is a wholly family-owned and operated clothing business offering a diverse and eclectic range of products and fashions for men and women of discerning tastes. Founded by Nicki James in 1999 MainStreet Clothing has over the years been recognized and awarded as one of the best clothing stores in the region.
For James a key to the downtown store’s success has always been the willingness of her and her staff to listen and respond to their customers' needs. By always striving to source out the latest fashions, and by delivering an experience for their customers that is as fun as it is creative, MainStreet Clothing has become the clothing destination of choice for clients from across the region and beyond – with the outlet regularly attracting customers from as far afield as the Lower Mainland.
“All my life, ever since I was a child I always loved fashion. Back then my Mom always made all of our clothes and once in a while we’d get to go to the ‘Big City’ and shop, but my interest in clothing and how things go together has always been important to me,” explained James.
Having grown up in a rural area of the Shuswap she learned to appreciate, to delight in the pleasure and familiarity that comes from living in a small community – a love that she continues to foster through her life and her business in Kamloops.
“Despite being a ‘rural kid’ I had a heart for big city fashion. I really wanted to set myself apart from everybody else when I wore things. By my early teens I got a job so I could spend my own money, to be independent and make my own fashion choices,” she recalled.
When she left home to be out on her own she quickly moved to Vancouver to experience the lessons the major centre could provide, and with her nose for fashion quickly found a job working in a local Bootlegger outlet.
“That was a terrific experience but eventually I moved back home, with the dream of opening my own clothing store. I was especially lucky as I had some great mentors along the way, people who really helped to put me on this path,” James explained.
“I think I’m just wired for fashion, I’m just naturally talented in fashion, probably because I have such a passion for it. I love how things work together it’s something that comes to me easily, and something that I in turn have passed onto others as I have mentored many others because they like how the store is, how it feels, the whole experience.”
Located at 221 Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops, MainStreet Clothing is in every sense a family business. Working with her daughters Jen James and Meagan James, and with the support of her husband and business partner Bryan James, she carefully sources clothing and accessories for customers of every taste, gender or budget – but all with a comfortable elegance that suits every setting from boardroom to dance floor.
Having fashion sense doesn’t automatically mean you have business sense, so James learned through trial and error about the successes and pitfalls of being a store owner – insights she freely supplies to those youthful start-ups she has mentored over the years.
“I always tell people to do their homework, it’s vital to know what you’re doing. Gaining experience, knowing how to cross all the ts when running a business is important and that’s why the lessons I’ve learned from amazing people along the way is so important. I had a natural ability, but they taught me a great many of the skills I’ve needed to successfully run my own business,” she said.
With a natural gift for fashion, and through the practical experience she gained working in other clothing stores (in addition to the lessons she learned from her mentors) James took the leap of faith in 1999, opening MainStreet Clothing at its current location.
“Preparation is a key for just about everything in life, including opening a business. When I finally did I was ready, and that preparation helped to make the process easy, and fun,” James explained.
In addition to having a great central location and a quality inventory of product, for James the real reason for the success of the MainStreet Clothing Co. is the quality of the staff, as she says, it’s not about the quantity of the staff a store employs, but the quality of the individuals charged with being a ventures ambassadors.
“I’m blessed to have such a great staff. Along the way I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people, including my daughters. I’m not running a one-woman show, it’s in every sense a collaborate effort. My daughters literally grew up with this business and now that we’re working together it brings a special pleasure to going to work as I now get to work and mentor them, carrying this business into its second generation,” she said.
An iconic part of the Kamloops business community with an eye for big city fashion while serving a smaller local centre, MainStreet Clothing is the living embodiment of Okanagan business success. Despite, or perhaps because of her achievements, sore owner Nicki James has never lost sight of the reason her enterprise has flourished – her customers.
“We bring in brand names and we also carry the unique, the things that we like. Couple that with limited sizing, they’ll know that when they buy something from us there won’t be dozens of the same thing out there, that’s part of our uniqueness,” she said.
“Over the years I have built great relationships with my customers. Every time they come into the store I want them to have the best experience possible. I have never taken my customers for granted as customer service is my passion and is something I instill in my employees daily.”