Wyoming Women Celebrate 45 Years of Business
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
By: Jordan Belser, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Small Business Administration
Casper, WY – Fashion Crossroads, a women’s fashion retail store and recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Spirit of Wyoming Award, has been a mainstay of downtown Casper for as long as many people can remember. On May 4, 2019, the store celebrated its 45th year in business.
In an industry where brick-and-mortar businesses are either closing, failing or transitioning to online sales, how does this mother-daughter duo continue to thrive?
“Attention to detail, customer service and knowledge of industry trends,” Dawn Stevenson, the store’s founder and president, explained. “It’s that simple.”
Sure, taking care of one’s customers sounds simple, but to understand how the Fashion Crossroads team does it, we have to look at how it all started.
Dawn’s life started in Canada with humble beginnings – her mother worked two jobs to support her five children. After high school, Dawn earned her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification and
worked as a nurse for a few years. She then married her husband Bob, a journalist, and moved to Worland, Wyo. when he took a job with the local paper.
“When I got to Worland, they didn’t have any nursing jobs open, so I worked part-time at a fashion retail chain there,” Stevenson said. “Eventually, the owner of the store got me to buy in, so I had a partnership with them. And, when the chain’s store in Casper came up for sale, I was able to buy it, and that’s how all of this got started.”
That might be how it started, but the journey was just beginning. When the retail chain filed for bankruptcy in the early 1990’s, Dawn made the decision to take over the operation independently.
“We were the top store in the country, and we had been the top store for a while. At one time, the chain had about 800 stores, so that was a big deal,” Stevenson said. “So, when the bankruptcy happened, I was still in a great position. I filed for the name Fashion Crossroads in Wyoming, kept the business going, and most people never even noticed.”
Dawn said that as the rest of the chain was liquidating inventory, she kept bringing more in.
“After working with the company for so many years, I really knew the business, and I knew most of the vendors,” Stevenson said. “It really was just a natural thing, it worked out well, and most importantly I was able to keep taking care of our customers.”
In 2000, Dawn purchased the empty building next to the original store and created Fashion Crossroads Outlet. Once the renovations were complete, she named her daughter – Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton – manager.
“Kyleen has a master’s in English and another in education. I wanted her to get away from the business for a while, see something new, so she went and taught in South Korea for some time,” Stevenson explained. “Once she and her husband moved back to Casper, she decided to get into the business full-time. Which is great because she’s a natural, she’s very talented, she works hard – the store will be in good shape for the next generation, I know that.”
Part of what makes Fashion Crossroads so successful is their ability to cater to a variety of customers.
“It’s amazing that we now have three generations of loyal customers who shop here,” Stevenson said. “Kyleen really stays on top of the latest trends, so if someone comes in and says, ‘I need something for a wedding in Chicago,’ she can find the exact outfit that’s going to work for that person and the location they’re headed. They’ll show up in Chicago and receive compliments on their attire – that’s what we bring to the table, and it’s that level of detail you won’t always find online.”
Kyleen knows that one day she’ll be running the entire operation, so she sought out resources from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) to help prepare for that moment. The Wyoming SBDC is a non-profit organization designed to help current (and prospective) small business owners achieve their goals.
“I’ve leaned on the SBDC for some help with market research, and I’ve also completed their Profit Mastery program, which is great,” Stevenson-Braxton, now a co-owner and equal business partner, said. “With my English background, I really thought that would be beneficial. Understanding the life cycle of money, how bankers see things, going through profit and loss documents – those are all things I needed to know.”
The relationship Kyleen has with her mother is another reason why the business has continued to be successful.
“Oh, we’ve definitely had our ups and downs, but that’s just a family thing,” Stevenson-Braxton said. “But folks who have worked with family before are amazed that we’ve been able to work together as well as we have for the last 20 years. It’s not always easy, but we’re a really strong team – she’s more pragmatic, I’m more creative, and it works really well.”
Today, Fashion Crossroads offers 7,500 square feet of women’s retail fashion, as well as an online shop, and consistently employs six or more staff members to help run the main store and the outlet. Despite cultural and economic fluctuations, the store has always found a way to remain successful.
“Despite the industry-wide move to online sales, which we’ve also embraced, I think there will always be a place for brick-and-mortar businesses, at least in some capacity,” Stevenson said. “People want customer service, they want to be treated well, they want us to remember their name each time they walk in.”
“There’s a million online boutiques that have popped up, technology is changing, and the market is flooded right now. That’s just not sustainable,” Stevenson-Braxton added. “We separate ourselves by caring, by showing that level of attentiveness, and making sure people feel at home when they shop here.”
After 45 years in Casper, Fashion Crossroads certainly feels like home.
Read more success stories in WEDA’s Legislative Update. http://www.wyomingeda.org/news-and-resources/publications/p/item/10626/weda-2020-legislative-update