Photos By Nolan P. Schmidt
Menswear is not something that is always top of mind when you mention the word “boutique”. That word will often conjure up images of women’s-oriented clothing stores. However, where can the everyday guy go to look best?
The short answer is DRUTHERS in south Fargo. Owner Holly Kraft has developed a passion for menswear thanks to her wide experience in the fashion and retail industry. Kraft previously worked for large companies like SCHEELS, Vanity and Straus Clothing before developing the passion to start her own business.
Recognizing a need in the community, Kraft created DRUTHERS in an attempt to provide a “middle ground” between extremely high-end menswear and the department store chain.
A commitment to comfortable yet affordable clothing has helped Kraft find that true middle ground. DRUTHERS is now the first store of its kind in the area and has the market cornered all to itself at the moment.
The passion and fervor to provide the average guy the best possible clothes is what makes DRUTHERS special. It is also what makes its owner, Holly Kraft, special to our community as well.
What has been your background in retail? And how did that lead you to start this business?
I’ve been in retail my whole life. I went to school for Apparel and Textiles in the Retail Merchandising emphasis at NDSU. When I was in the program, there were two options and I chose Retail Merchandising because it was business-focused. There were courses on buying, building and sustaining a business in this industry..
After college, I worked at SCHEELS in Moorhead as a shop manager for two different shops and their visual display manager for the entire store. From there, I worked for Straus Clothing and a.k.a. (owned by Straus Clothing) too. That is where I developed a love for locally-owned small business. I really love the environment, the flexibility and communicating with customers. That’s one thing you don’t get in a corporate office. I also worked at the Vanity home office. My role there was a Senior Business Analyst and I forecasted sales trends and reviewed inventory management. Essentially, I studied the nitty-gritty detail and data of corporate sales for anywhere between 150 to 175 stores and recommended future actions based on my findings.
After Vanity, I landed back at SCHEELS in the corporate office as a vendor analyst in hardlines. I helped the buying teams and stores review their sales and propose reorders.Then, I moved over to logistics, which is shipping and receiving for the stores. It was really enlightening to be immersed in that process because you learn how a product is transferred from the vendor to the retailer. Oftentimes, you don’t really think about how an item gets to the store in the most cost-effective way.
After I left SCHEELS, I decided to start DRUTHERS. I’ve always really loved being in a boutique and I’ve always really loved the small business impact in this community. I discovered that’s what I really wanted to do.
And how did menswear become your primary focus or niche for DRUTHERS?
I had a couple of ideas floating around in my head because I knew I wanted to own my own business. I had experience in menswear when I worked for Straus Clothing and a.k.a.. Straus was more traditional menswear; suits and ties, while a.k.a. was premium casual to dressy clothing. I developed my love of men’s fashion there. I enjoy working with people in the men’s industry and I like following men’s trends. They actually correlate really well with women’s fashion trends. If there’s something that’s hitting big in women’s, sometimes, you’ll see the men’s version and vice versa. It’s really fun to watch that balance.
I also knew there was an opportunity within the community. It was great timing because there aren’t many establishments like DRUTHERS in the Fargo metro. There are many women’s boutiques and I felt like the people who are running those
are doing it really well. I didn’t need to be another competitor to the amazing businesswomen in the community, I wanted to fulfill a need and that happened to be a men’s clothing store.
What were some of the biggest challenges in starting this business?
The whole thing in its entirety is a challenge because I really didn’t know where to start. If you’ve never owned your own business before, even some of the language is a little different. There’s a lot of things in each area of developing a business that I just never had exposure to. Because of that, I leaned on mentors from previous roles to help me understand what was needed to open up a business from the ground up.
They were able to help, at least from their experiences, but nothing’s ever the same. I couldn’t expect that what they shared with me would be my experience. I knew it was not going to go by the book in any sense, but at least talking with them gave me some insight into what could happen. In developing DRUTHERS, I was lucky to have people in my life to go to who had done it before.
What piece of advice would you give to fellow women looking to start their own business?
This is a difficult question to answer! I’m still learning. I try to be like a sponge and I really want to absorb all the knowledge I can from the people around me. With what I know today, my biggest piece of advice is to never compare yourself to somebody else or somebody else’s business. Even somebody else’s social page, somebody else’s aesthetic, too. It’s so hard but try to focus on yourself, build what you want to build and focus on your message. Make sure you’re attending to what you can control and what’s going to make your business grow. Don’t compare yourself to somebody else, because they’re completely different.
What have been some of your biggest rewards throughout this process?
This experience has forced me to look within myself and really understand who I am and what I want to contribute to the world.
Another thing that is so rewarding is that I’m doing it. It’s the fact that I was able to develop this business, we’re open, we’re running and I have customers who love this store and I love them. There’s this mutual gratitude between myself and everybody that walks in the door. My customers appreciate what I’m doing, they can appreciate what I’m trying to build, and I appreciate them for supporting us.
I’m so proud of myself for being able to do this, even though the last 12 months have been less than ideal. I’m so appreciative of the people who have come in to support me early on and to the people that have spread the word and told all their friends and family.
In your mind, what makes DRUTHERS stick out?
My goal is to make this a place where guys can come and get clothing that looks good, feels good and is super comfortable. That is my niche: everyday clothing, amazing comfort at a really good price. There was this huge opportunity in the community that allowed me to bring men’s brands and styles that people may not have seen before and provide elevated basics at a decent price point.
My other niche is I’m trying to grow sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly brand awareness. About half of my store is sustainable whether it’s something that they do to replenish the environment or the use of organic and recycled materials. Some brands do things like cleaning water, picking up trash, planting trees, using wind turbine power or recycling plastic bottles for actual materials. Using materials like hemp, which is naturally organic, is another way a company can produce sustainable clothing. Fashion can be a detrimental industry with how quickly it’ll fill a landfill and if we can prevent that in any way, I’m here for it.
One way DRUTHERS personally gives back is through our web orders. For every online sale, we donate $1 to one of three charities. At the end of each transaction, the customer can choose which charity resonates most with them personally and that is where I will donate $1 in honor of their support. A lot of companies will say ‘do you want to donate $1?’ I didn’t want to do that. It was important for me that the donation came from DRUTHERS but I wanted to give you the choice of where it goes.
What can the Fargo- Moorhead-West Fargo community do to help DRUTHERS?
Definitely stopping by to take a peak at what we offer! A lot of people may have seen a printed article about us, a radio advertisement or even a social post, but haven’t had the chance to come in. Stop by and check us out! I’ll always be open and honest with you while you’re shopping and I’ll be your resource for fashion, fit and making sure that you look your best. I want everyone to come in knowing that I’m here for you and trust that I’ve got your best interests at heart. I’m not going to try to sell you something that doesn’t look good.
Word of mouth has been the most amazing driver of growth for me because people trust their friends. If you’ve taken the time to come in and you love it, telling people you shopped at DRUTHERS is by far the most rewarding thing for me. When that next customer comes in and says ‘so and so told me to come in because they absolutely loved it’, it’s the best feedback.
It let’s me know that customers are loving what we’re providing to the community. Once you’re here, my goal is to convert you into loving it, too.
4600 32nd Ave S #112, Fargo