That finishing fashion touch
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:45 PM
"It's the shoes that are fitting southern transplant Andrea Ragin into Bainbridge. And judging from the early reaction to Magnolia's on Madison, Ragin's new shoe store, the match is a good one.I was looking for a deficit in retail opportunities, what was not being provided on the island, she said.I polled different merchants, and shoes were it.The store opened Aug. 18 in Lundgren Station on the corner of Winslow Way and Madison Avenue. The space had formerly been occupied by Exotic Aquatics, which moved to a larger space on Ericksen Avenue.As a retail novice, Ragin knew she would need help and advice from other merchants. And that shaped her choice of merchandise.I didn't want to do anything that could be construed as competing against anyone else, she said. I didn't want any hard feelings.She learned that the island hadn't had a shoe store in 10 years, when the owner of the single existing store retired. So the other clothing stores not only didn't see her as a threat, they saw possible benefits to themselves.Women like outfits, Ragin said. If they buy clothes, they want that finishing touch too.But she says that for women, shoes are more than just accompaniments to the rest of their attire.If there's one thing you can find to look good on you, it's shoes, she said. They always fit, even on a bad day.Following the lead of the island's clothing stores, Ragin and three part-time employees will keep Magnolia's open seven days a week.Retailing is a new venture for Ragin, a South Carolina native who moved to the island from Atlanta two years ago. Her background had been in nursing.I was not too interested in commuting. I tried that for a month, and that was enough, she said.So she decided to try retailing. With three high-schoolers and one younger child at home, I needed the sanity of a store, she said.Once she decided to give retailing a try, and settled on her product, she had to find a space. The Lundgren Station space became available in May, and I had to decide over the weekend whether to take it.She took the storefront on July 1, then her husband and nephew spent six weeks revamping the space. They took down walls, added new light fixtures and carpet, and painted inside and out.The enthusiastic early response tells her that she read the market correctly.It's been tremendous, she said. The customers have been so excited that they don't have to go to Seattle to get a pair of shoes.She tries to offer a broad spectrum of styles and prices, from very affordable casual and walking shoes to high-end designer shoes.I was afraid expensive shoes in the window would scare people off, she said, but they come inside and find there are lots of inexpensive shoes. Anybody can find something here.Her next target audience is men's shoes. She plans to begin special-ordering Dansko and Kenneth Cole shoes, and may feature a small grouping of shoes for men in the store.The store's name reflects her southern roots.It came from my knitting group in Poulsbo. I wanted something that had to do with the South, that was inviting and kind of feminine. This is what the group came up with.Her limited experience convinces her that a retail store is a perfect vehicle for a relatively new member of any community.It grounds and connects you to a place that you live and want to be part of, she said. You feel like you're contributing somewhat to the community. "