Walk into Monroe Boutique at 301 Mission Ave. in Downtown Oceanside and the first thing that strikes you is the decor.
“I wanted something very different,” said Monroe Boutique LLC owner Ashley Lambeth Christian. Shiny corrugated metal doors on the dressing rooms stand out. Unusual antique touches include old student lockers holding up a desktop and some of the clothes for sale hanging high from the ceiling. Lambeth Christian gets them down using a long pole with a hook on the end.
The boutique offers a range of clothing options — rompers, T-shirts, leggings, jeans — but dresses are the mainstay.
Lambeth Christian gets them in the LA Fashion District every two weeks.
Her primary clientele are ages 20-35. Lambeth Christian herself is in her 30s — so it’s a demographic she knows well.
However, she said, “we have had women of all ages” as customers. “We have had women in their 70s buy” because of the classic look of some of the store’s clothing.
“It makes you feel so beautiful,” she said.
The store has done unusually well, given the time frame for its opening, she said, as she and her husband, Travis Christian, had wanted to open the shop during the summer tourist season. But construction took longer than expected.
It was Thanksgiving weekend before they finally opened, and Lambeth Christian figured they might have to suck up some losses for a while.
But, she said, “we’re doing a lot better than I thought we would,” and they’ve been able to pay all the bills so far.
Primarily, she said, her customers are local residents and she’s thankful for the support of the downtown business community as well.
Life for the couple — they have an 18-month-old daughter, Maddix — has taken a dramatic turn for the better since two years ago when they were homeless but dreaming of starting their own business. They began by selling at swap meets.
Lambeth Christian had the background, having studied at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in its various locations. It’s headquartered in Los Angeles.
She’s mentoring her younger sister, Lauren Derdrich, who’s working in the store, too.
“I’m trying to teach her all the tricks of the trade,” from buying to media. “That’s my ultimate goal — helping others,” Lambeth Christian said.
Harney Sushi, the restaurant next door, owns her boutique space.
Lambeth Christian said the restaurant’s owners, who previously used the space for storage, have been especially helpful in getting her business off the ground. “They’ve done so much,” she said.
The store entrance is below street level, and there isn’t any adjacent parking, but Lambeth Christian said customers are finding her anyway.
There is signage along busy Mission Avenue.
And, Lambeth Christian said, residents of local condominiums have even made fliers about coming to support “the cute little shop.”
“I am so grateful for that,” she said.
Monroe Boutique is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 760-231-5060.