A few weeks ago during the weekend of the Salem Arts Festival I had the pleasure of stopping into Ocean Chic Boutique and meeting with Erica, the owner. We chatted a bit and I took some pictures around the shop to show you all a little bit about what she does and how it looks. I’m happy to share that all with you here today on my Salem Business Spotlight. 🙂
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop.
My name is Erica Kirwan Bourgault and I’m the owner of Ocean Chic Boutique and Waterbar on Salem’s Pickering Wharf. Ocean Chic carries women’s, men’s and baby clothing and accessories, all with a beachy vibe. You’ll find big brands you know (Vineyard Vines, O’Neill, KJP to name a few) and local ones you’re going to love!
What made you choose the name?
I played with a lot of different coastal and seaside names prior to opening up. I had a lengthy list, but Ocean Chic Boutique just rolled off the tongue so nicely. And what’s the ocean without water? I added the Waterbar and that was that.
What is a Waterbar?
The Waterbar is an oasis in the City of Salem. It’s a way for my guests to come in, slow down and enjoy their experience at Ocean Chic, all while hydrating which is essential. We offer several different types of waters from boxed spring water, to seltzer water, and even maple water, which is one ingredient organic sap straight from the tree.
What made you chose Salem for the location of your shop?
There’s a one-of-a-kind energy in this city, and I was drawn to the buzz that was building here. It’s no secret that Salem is becoming the hub of the North Shore, so it’s an exciting time to be a part of the expansion this city is experiencing. Since opening in 2014, there has been a lot of business growth both downtown and along the waterfront, so I am surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs who have been extremely supportive.
In addition to connecting with fellow entrepreneurs, I enjoy talking with each guest in my shop. At Ocean Chic, we enjoy the perfect blend of tourists and regulars. Locals (from Salem & surrounding towns) have said they are drawn to my bright setup and preppy products because there’s nothing else like it here. Then, there are over a million people who visit the witch city each year from all over the world, so I never know who is going to walk through my doors on a given day. It keeps things interesting. It’s fun to learn about various cultures & hear what brought them to Salem; whether it’s shopping, a day at the PEM, exploring The Witch Museum, enjoying the maritime history, attending a wedding, or trying one of our dozens of new restaurants, breweries or distilleries.
What has the biggest challenge been for you as a business owner in the witch city?
My biggest challenge so far has been fundraising. I think that’s the most common challenge when starting any business, large or small. While In corporate America, I worked for a few different financial firms. My last gig was as Director of Marketing at Bain Capital Ventures and while there, I watched first-hand how startups obtained funding to get their business off the ground. My job was to then write the press release to announce the deal and talk about how the funds were going to be used to accelerate that person’s vision. That experience gave me the confidence and the know how to raise the capital needed to start my own brand new business, Ocean Chic.
How did you overcome the challenge?
After being told “no” by four different banks back in 2013, I started to wonder if this was really going to happen. Then one day I came across an advertisement in my town paper. It was from Cape Ann Savings. I cut it out and walked down to the bank and asked to speak with the man in the photo. His name was Bob and he wanted to hear more about my idea and more about my background as a businesswoman. No charts, no fancy PowerPoint slides, just a conversation to start. A few months later (and many charts and slides later) I secured my first SBA loan through Bob. He was instrumental in getting Ocean Chic off the ground.
What advice would you give to someone considering opening a shop?
Open a business that is going to fulfill you and bring joy to your daily life. Running your own company is a 24-7 / 365 gig, so I highly suggest you create something that you are absolutely in love with.
What’s one thing you’d want people to know about your business that may not be inherently obvious?
How many made in New England products we carry! There’s so much talent right in our own backyard and I have so much fun connecting with these local clothing designers and jewelry makers to bring their collections into my store.
Is running a business in Salem in October as chaotic as it sounds?
Do you have any future or upcoming events you’re excited about or want to share?
I’m really excited for Sunday Funday on the Seaside of Salem. Ocean Chic will be partnering with The Salty Buddha to bring free yoga to the National Maritime Park right next to my shop, outside on the harbor. After your Sunday stretch, head into Ocean Chic with your drink coupon to re hydrate at our Waterbar (on the house!). While you’re there, be sure to pick up a list of exclusive Sunday specials, bloody mary bars, and live music spots; we’ll help you map your route for Sunday Funday on the Seaside of Salem! This will be a six week series starting 6/24, so I encourage you to grab your friends and make a day of it. More info can be found on my website: shopoceanchic.com
Do you have a product or service that is your specialty? Is there something specific you are known for?
We the only Vineyard Vines retailer in Salem, and just this past year I worked with them to create custom Salem shirts. We currently have two designs out (I Whale Salem in white, and Salem Coordinates in navy). These are exclusive to Ocean Chic so you won’t find them in any other Vineyard Vines store. In just a few days our third Salem shirt will be arriving for summer and I’m really excited to post pictures of this All-American design!
Do you do anything specific or special during certain times of the year? October or non.
Yes, I host a holiday market, which starts in November and runs straight through Christmas. I work with a dozen or so artists to highlight their collections of unique clothing, jewelry and gift items both in my shop and via my online store. It’s a great way for them to get their products out to the public, and my customers love finding gifts for their loved ones that often aren’t available elsewhere. It’s one of my favorite times of year because I become a personal shopper. I truly enjoy the process of gift giving, plus I’ll serve you a hydrating refreshment in between all of those holiday parties. It’s really a win-win all around and we have a lot of fun with it. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
Thank you so much to Erica for taking the time to hang out with me and tell me a bit about her lovely shop!! If you’re in Salem, definitely swing by for a hello and tell her I sent you. Ocean Chic Boutique is located at 96 Wharf St. Salem, MA 01970. The shop’s phone number is (978) 594-4560 and their website is shopoceanchic.com.