Nested in the historic Northern Hotel building is a blooming Magnolia.
No, this is not a flower, but a locally owned and operated fashion boutique called Magnolia Moon.
Its owner, Cameron Moon, is a CSU alumna with a graduate degree in apparel and merchandising. Moon’s journey to starting her business was a long one.
Dr. Ruoh-Nan Yan, associate professor for the Department of Design and Merchandising, said Moon is the first student she knows that opened an apparel store.
“(Most graduate students) get jobs with companies after they graduated or move forward to get a Ph.D. degree,” Yan said. “Cameron is the first one I know of that opened her own apparel store.”
Dr. Jennifer Ogle, a professor of design and merchandising, said that many students hope to launch their own businesses after graduating.
“(They) get jobs with companies after they graduated or move forward to get a Ph.D. degree,” Ogle said.
Moon, unlike many of her peers, decided not to go down the corporate path.
“Well, I tried,” she said. “But I graduated college in 2009, when the economy was really bad.”
After getting her undergraduate degree from a university in Texas, Moon said she had internships lined up in New York, but they got cancelled due to the economic recession.
“I had a couple of jobs that I got offered, and then just before starting, they cut the positions,” she said.
Moon said living in south Texas did little to help her job search in New York, and for a while, she was discouraged and broke. Moon’s friend, Anali Ortega, who was at the time studying in Fort Collins, invited her to visit in 2010. Moon fell in love with the city and decided to pursue her graduate degree at CSU.
After finishing the graduate degree, Moon was encouraged to continue studying.
“I went to go get a Ph.D. back in my hometown of Auburn, Alabama,” she said.
But after the first semester, Moon said, “Nope, I’m tired … My heart’s not in it.”
She then moved back with her parents in Texas, and got a job managing a general store for King Ranch – the largest ranch in the world, she said.
“I think grad school helped me learn how to research and be really diligent,” Cameron said. “But, a lot of it is just learn as you go.”
Today, after all the degrees, majors and minors, you could say that Moon is living the dream.
“I feel so funny telling you this story, but it really did happen” Moon said. “I had a dream one night, and it was like, I saw the entire store. It was my boutique. I saw how the fixtures look. I saw myself talking to customers.”
That’s when she decided to set the dream in motion. She started doing research and seeing what it would take to make it happen.
Putting a shop together can be overwhelming, especially if you consider all the logistical steps that go into it: from sourcing merchandise to choosing lamp fixtures – a challenge to which Moon recommends starting small.
“It’s really overwhelming if you look at it as 10 million different things to do,” she said. “Since I was starting small, it made it a little bit easier. I wasn’t trying to get this grand final product right from day one.”
When the store first opened, it wasn’t “exciting looking or impressive; it was not a lot of merchandise,” Moon added.
Because she started her business with no loans, she decided she had to be very frugal her first year. For that reason, the shop’s first location was on Mason Street and away from the foot traffic of Old Town.
“With Fort Collins growing so much and the real estate market being so difficult, (Moon) had to settle for a less than ideal spot at the beginning,” Ortega said. “It seems like a town that used to be very supportive of small, local businesses has completely turned their back on them and given in to chains and large corporations and that has been very hard for her to overcome.”
Since then, however, Magnolia Moon has been re-planted to its current location on College Avenue with rolled-up sleeves and help from friends.
The shop itself is a lot of Magnolia and even more Moon. The name was inspired by a Magnolia tree that grew in her backyard in Alabama. Owner Cameron Moon says that, for her, it’s synonymous with Southern hospitality and being warm and inviting.
She was in charge of decorating the space, down to the clothing racks, which she made from black pipes that she sourced from Home Depot.
Moon selects merchandise that goes beyond the basics, she said; most of which cannot be found elsewhere in Fort Collins.
“It’s important for me to keep things interesting, but affordable,” she said. “Just about everything here is under $100.”
Right now, Moon is on a five-year plan. She hopes to eventually open another location in Denver as well as launch a private label.
“I’m not a designer, but I know what people will buy,” she said.
So working with designers to create the Magnolia Moon label is the next step, she said.
“Denver’s got such a big fashion scene going now. They got manufacturing there. So, it’s something that I could just do locally,” Moon said.
When asked if she finds time for much else, she laughed.
“Do I have time for myself?” Moon questioned. “No. But I’m working on it.”
Collegian Reporter Eleonora Yurkevich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.