Stephanie Bryce and Krissy Borcher were sick of dressing like men.
As two of the few female heavy equipment operators out at Black Thunder Mine in the Powder River Basin, they are pretty much relegated to the dress code of the job, which most days amounts to bulky jackets, ratty jeans and a pair of steel-toed boots. Despite their male-dominated, blue-collar profession, both women consider themselves “girly girls” and love dressing up, putting on makeup and doing a lot of shopping on the side.
A couple of years ago, the two friends, who met at the mine more than a decade ago, decided they could cater to both sides, keeping their mine jobs but selling clothing on the side, too. The lack of local boutique shopping in Gillette cemented their decision to take a chance in filling a much-needed niche in the community by providing an online clothing retail store. Given how much time and money they spent shopping for themselves, they figured they might as well do it for others.
“There’s nowhere, really, in town to find stylish clothing other than the box stores,” Bryce said, noting that shopping there often meant looking like everyone else in town. They wanted cool, diverse boutique clothing that couldn’t be found locally, without having to drive to a bigger city.
Using social media, they launched their online store, buying clothing in bulk from wholesale outlets online and posting the items on Facebook. As they had guessed, the business began to pick up, with lots of local sales and even customers from out of city and state.
However, there were huge limitations when it came to stocking inventory. It didn’t take long to outgrow their storage space in Bryce’s closet, so they looked into renting a retail spot, where they could facilitate things in person on their days off.
Just as they suspected, there was definitely a demand in town, and their business began to take off. They approached a local store that also carried other vendors and rented a space in her store to sell their clothing. Multiple vendors joining forces to rent a shared space is a business model that is catching on in small towns where renting a storefront is prohibitive for small shops and local artisans, who are desperate to get their products and art out into public.
However, when that store went out of business a year ago this February, the pair decided to take over the store under a new name, launching Red Daisy Gifts, which they ran for a year. A month ago, they moved to a larger location on South Miller Avenue in downtown Gillette, and invited in other artists and vendors and charged them a small monthly rate.
Currently, they showcase 50-plus other regional vendors and artists, selling everything from clothing to jewelry, children’s clothes, food and a wide variety of home decor.
“The community is definitely supporting us,” Borcher said, as word of their business continues to spread.
The hardest part so far for the woman is juggling two-plus jobs and keeping up with their various duties. They currently have a packed store with a waiting list of vendors wanting to get in.
Along with running the store on their days off, they also have hired staff to help keep things running.
“We provide local jobs and give other vendors a space to sell their creative designs and products,” Bryce added. “We wanted to help make other people’s dreams come true, too.”
Perhaps even more importantly, they get to dress up and feel like pretty women again, which is easy to lose sight of when running heavy equipment next to a bunch of men.
Their store is located in Suite C at 310 S. Miller Ave. in Gillette, and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. You can find them on Facebook at Red Daisy Gifts.