Mainstream Boutique: A Passion for Helping People Feel Good Through Fashion

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Words by Rebecca Fischer  /  Photos by Jami Marshall

When Carol Culkin relocated to Kansas City six years ago in support of her husband’s career move, she was feeling a bit lost.

Not only was she in an entirely new place, but she had also given up her own career as a top-producing real estate agent in Upstate New York. On top of that, her father passed away just before they moved here. Then, she lost her mother shortly after the move.

Little did she know she was about to discover a new life — a new passion — as the owner of Mainstream Boutique. In a way, she was returning to her roots. Culkin spent her high school and some of her college years working at a clothing chain in Central New York, starting as a sales associate and moving her way up to become an assistant buyer. 

She dreamed of attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, but her parents convinced her business school made more sense. Owning the boutique now combines the best of both worlds: Culkin gets to use her business training and her eye for fashion.

Plus, she gets to contribute something positive to her client’s lives.

“As a real estate agent, I helped people accomplish their dream of owning a home,” Culkin says. “The boutique is different, but I’m still helping people. We’re here to empower women through fashion.”

Connecting through fashion
“We’ve helped many women develop their style, or just find clothing they might not have thought of but looks great on them,” Culkin says. “It’s really fun to open someone’s eyes to what fashion can do.”

The store offers one-to-one style consulting, as well as “girls’ night out” after-hours parties, in which a percentage of the sales go to the hostess or a charity. A customer recently brought in her sister — and a bottle of Prosecco — and the two had fun discovering new looks. 

“Helping women create their own personal style and empowering them through fashion is what my team and I are all about,” Culkin says. “We want to help women feel confident and have fun creating and perfecting their personal style.” 

Christmas every day
With new items delivered almost every day, Culkin’s pretty sure the UPS guy enjoys the greeting he gets when he walks into the boutique as much as clients do.

“It’s like he’s Santa, and it’s Christmas morning for us every day,” she says. “I want every client to find something new no matter how often they shop with us.”

Mainstream Boutique is a Minneapolis-based franchise founded by Marie DeNicola in 1991 to offer multigenerational fashions and trendy styles for both junior and missy women. Orders can be placed only with “approved” vendor lines, but the list is extensive, Culkin says, giving her a wide variety of product selections. She regularly keeps in touch with some of the 80 or so other franchise owners to discuss what’s trending and share ideas about managing a business. 

In addition to women’s apparel, the boutique offers shoes, accessories, and some gift items. Among the many brands offered is Mac and Me, the franchise’s exclusive line. Mac and Me Jeans are a hot seller, as is the Liverpool brand.

In fact, Culkin recently brought in a style expert from Liverpool for an event. Customers got expert advice on how to find the perfect pair of jeans, and Mainstream Boutique’s stylists increased their fashion knowledge.

Culkin held a similar event with New York City style expert and red carpet commentator George Brescia earlier this year. Brescia visited both stores and offered one-to-one consultations. Suffice it to say, both events were packed.

Whether you’re looking for a new piece or want a totally new look, check out Mainstream Boutique (mainstreamboutique.com) at 9540 Nall Ave. in Overland Park and 15056 S. Blackbob Road in Olathe.