Chasing the hottest trends no longer requires a trip to Charlotte.
Melissa Thomas and her husband Bob Thomas opened L.A. East in Stonecrest two months ago, and business has been great ever since, she said. Thomas said more than 100 people walk through her door every week.
"We looked at every location available from Stonecrest to Ballantyne to South Park," Thomas said. "We decided on Stonecrest because we live in Tega Cay and we wanted to stay local, and this is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and there's nothing here."
The store, billed as carrying "the hottest clothes east of L.A.," carries 15 different brands of premium denim and more than two dozen up and coming and established designer clothing and accessories lines for both men and women. Thomas decides which lines to carry based on price, quality and fashion trends.
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The couple attends trade shows in Las Vegas, New York and Atlanta to check out new products and rely on wholesale contacts made over the last six years of running a clothing store on the Internet.
"Our location was always online, but my husband decided it was time to open a brick and mortar store," she said.
With prices ranging from $25 to $250, Thomas said her prices beat those at boutiques and department stores in Ballantyne and South Park by 25 to 50 percent. One of her favorite features, and one customers seem to like too, is the denim bar. There, customers can relax while perusing a "menu" of the brands of jeans L.A. East carries, and Thomas or one of her two sales associates will help them pick the brand that best suits what they're looking for.
"I think it's a fabulous store," customer Jamie Rudzinski said as she was checking out. "It's up to date, modern, hip. It's great for the younger crowd, the 16 to 35-year-olds."
L.A. East is open 10:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The store also has a Web site, www.laeast.net.
Not far away, another trendy fashion boutique, Page 6, plans to open its second location in the MarketPlace building, currently under construction on Market Street in Baxter Town Center, according to Clear Springs Development Spokeswoman Kerri Robusto.
The building won't be finished until October, so Page 6 won't open until the fall, but township residents can get a feel for what to expect when it does open by visiting the company's other store on Heckle Boulevard in Rock Hill.
"The growth in Fort Mill is an obvious benefit, but we were also drawn to the boutique atmosphere and charm of Baxter," owner Deana Teague said in statement released by Clear Springs, the developer of Baxter. "We already have several clients from Baxter at our original location. Baxter Town Center provided the perfect fit for us."
Teague could not be reached for comment last week.
She opened Page 6 in Rock Hill two years ago because she was tired of driving to Charlotte to go clothes shopping.
Page 6 carries many of the same lines that L.A. East does, but that doesn't bother Thomas.
"I think there's enough room for the competition," she said.
The two new stores also have competition to the north at Plaza Fiesta. Since the mall was renovated, dozens of small market stall style boutiques carrying everything from children's clothes to sports wear to trendy women's fashion to lingerie have opened. In addition to the boutiques, four major clothing retailers (Van Huesen, Hamrick's, Bass Outlet and El Potero Western Wear) are also doing business in the mall.