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Roam Owner Mallory Ulaszek On Poolside Mojitos, Leather Pants

 Photo: Heath Sharp
Photo: Heath Sharp

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Hands down, Old Town's Roam boutique has been one of the most chattered-about store openings this year. And it makes sense: as the former owner of Cityblue Apparel & Denim and CB, Owner Mallory Ulaszek is no newbie to retail hot spots. With Roam, Ulaszek hopes to fill Chicago's market gap between contemporary apparel and couture—but the high-end store still has a sense of youthful, fun energy (after all, much of its concept was developed over mojitos.) Read on to learn more about Ulasezek's buying philosophy, the pony hair coat she has her eye on, and the little dog who keeps her shoppers company.

This is your third boutique. What initially inspired you to open a store?
Initially it was about getting back to what inspired me and made me happy. I knew it wasn't corporate America anymore, and fashion was where I felt the most comfortable. I had always wanted to be a part of this industry, I had just never found the right place to start. Owning a store meant I could both be in fashion as well as be self-employed, which are the two things I wanted out of a career.

What was your a-ha moment when you decided to name the store "Roam?" How did it come to you?
I brought in friend and branding genius, Chelsea Lavin, to help me conceptualize Roam. We had decided we wanted the new name to have a feeling of wandering and a sort of bohemian nature. When we came up with the name we were actually poolside drinking mojitos—where better could you be inspired?— throwing out words to each other and brainstorming. When it came to us, we wouldn't let anyone tell us it sucked. That's how we knew it was the right choice.

For someone who's never been to the store, what can they expect to find?
Expect to find a lot of designers you may not be all too familiar with as well as some diffusion lines. Our focus was to find a happy balance between up-and-comers, current frontrunners, and exclusivity. I spent a lot of time putting effort into bringing on new lines and cherry picking designers. The result is something I am extremely proud of.

What's your buying philosophy for the store?
We seek out designers that aren't widely distributed in the Chicago market. From there I like to cater to the customers' needs and wants as well as popping in a few trend pieces here and there.

What are your favorite pieces that are in stock right now?
A 10 Crosby by Derek Lam pony hair coat, Anine Bing leather pants, and a diamond eternity ring in rose gold.

Do you have any store pets?
My miniature dachshund Dexter is usually with me. He is the friendliest pup out there, so he usually gets all the attention from customers.

What do the fitting rooms look like?
The fitting rooms are located in a cozy area that is tucked behind the checkout area. Inside we have gold flecked wallpaper and an overdyed vintage rug. Accents give it a bohemian vibe. Right now we have plans to finish it out with some photos and additional light fixtures.

What kinds of customers have you had come through? Any most memorable visitors?
We just opened [in October] but so far we have had a lot of new customers from around the area.

What's on the store's playlist?
It varies from day to day. We usually have on a Pandora station, so it can range from Foo Fighters to Daft Punk.

How about scents? Any candles or anything you love to have going?
Right now we have a candle burning that smells like apples and spices. It's the perfect fall scent from Voluspa called Clove Pomander, which we carry at Roam. We also have another, Branche Vermeil, which is a great winter scent.

What gap does Roam fill in the Chicago market?
We fill the market that lies between contemporary and high-end luxury and couture.

What is the most invigorating thing about owning a new store? The most exhausting? The most surprising?
Owning Roam in particular was exciting because I was able to take what I have learned over the last five years owning two boutiques and apply it to a completely new concept. The surprising part is how non-exhaustive it is to me, I love what I do so it doesn't feel like work.
· Mallory Ulaszek Will Open Roam Next Month [Racked Chicago]
· All Cityblue Apparel & Denim coverage [Racked Chicago]
· Roam [Facebook]

Roam

1419 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL