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January 13, 2014
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Meet Your Merchant: Roseburg store stays fashionable through the years

Cute clothes for women sold well in the outdoors store, so Vicki Nielsen wanted more space to display them.

Husband Alex Nielsen grudgingly gave up a little more space in the couple’s Northwest Outdoors Supply in downtown Roseburg. But finally he was done giving and the couple decided to open Northwest Lifestyles, a separate store featuring women’s clothes, shoes, boots and jewelry.

“The outdoors store was evolving into a nice ladies clothing store and he wanted fishing and outdoors,” Vicki Nielsen said. “He said it was looking too girly in there. I said I wanted more room, so we decided to open a new store.”

Northwest Lifestyles opened in 2003 at 445 S.E. Jackson St., a neglected building the Nielsens purchased in 1997 and renovated. They originally opened a pet store, Nature’s Images, but the couple had no doubts about trading animals for clothing.

“The pet industry was slumping at the time,” Vicki Nielsen said. “We were getting a lot of positive feedback for the ladies’ clothing we were selling in the outdoors store and a couple other clothing stores in downtown Roseburg had closed or were closing at about that same time.”

The Nielsens remodeled for a clothing store, but kept the fish pond at the front of the store. They also kept Tie Dye, a 28-year-old scarlet macaw.

“We like the pond for its sound effect,” Vicki Nielsen said. “The macaw we’ve had since he was a baby. He likes the interaction with people, he likes the activity of the store. But he has his moments of squawking.”

Nielsen, who was the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce president in 2003 when the store opened, said her goal for Northwest Lifestyles was to be a boutique that offered clothing from fashion trends to classics. She said the styles fit a variety of ages and tastes.

“We specialize in not having a lot of the same items, usually only three or four, and that way a customer has less chance of running into somebody wearing the same thing,” she said. “We try not to duplicate, so it’s unique to the person.”

Nielsen said she seeks merchandise made in the U.S. or Canada. She estimated at least two-thirds of the clothing and accessories in the store are from those two countries.

“As long as I’m not sacrificing something for my store, I will get it from the U.S. and, to a lesser degree, from Canada,” Nielsen said. “We carry good quality clothing, and it’s at a fair price. It’s going to be more expensive than a big box store, but I don’t compete with those stores because we carry a different quality of clothing.”

Donna Spicer of Roseburg has been a shopper at Northwest Lifestyles for several years. She said she likes the originality and quality of the clothes.

“I like it that Vicki and her staff are very good at helping you find things that look good on you,” Spicer said. “They’ll tell you if something doesn’t look quite right, and they’ll keep working with you until it is right. They do a good job of putting things on you that look good. That’s attention that some of the larger stores don’t provide. Those stores don’t provide that same one-on-one that she can.”

Nielsen said that her business definitely slumped during the recession, but she didn’t lay off any staff. In addition to the owner, the store has five employees.

“The recession made us work hard to keep the numbers up,” she said.

She said the business started doing more special events, including several trunk shows a year. Sales representatives from manufacturers brought samples, giving shoppers a preview and a chance to order upcoming trends.

Northwest Lifestyles has also hosted several fashion shows and worked with nonprofit agencies to put on charitable events.

“We worked hard to stay in touch with our loyal customers,” Nielsen said. “Even in a recession, people still need good clothes. They need to get dressed every morning and go to work. We’ve survived because we have an unusual, diversified selection. We’ll try to find you the perfect clothes for whatever purpose.”

Vicki Nielsen emphasized that while her husband’s retirement means the closure of Northwest Outdoors if no buyer comes forward, Northwest Lifestyles is separate and remaining in business.

“We’re here to stay,” she said. “We’ll keep changing the mix. Fashions change. We’ll maintain a good blend of fashion trends with the classic styles.”

• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at creed@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Jan 13, 2014 12:44PM Published Jan 16, 2014 01:48PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.