Old Main Emporium thriving after one year of business

Old Main Emporium, located on 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington, specializes in selling unique Kelly green apparel and accessories.

Rob Engle

Old Main Emporium, located on 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington, specializes in selling unique Kelly green apparel and accessories.

Sandwiched in a row of shops in downtown Huntington is a small boutique that packs a big punch.

Operated by Sara Deel and Sara Sturgen, Old Main Emporium specializes in all things Kelly green, from apparel, to jewelry, to even home goods.

But it’s not just their products that make this shop what it is.

“Sara and Sara make it such a great shopping experience,” said Erin Highlander, a frequent customer of Old Main Emporium.

Highlander, who describes herself as “shopping [at the Emporium] often enough that I know when the shipment truck comes,” said that customers will never shop alone.

“The nice part about shopping with Sara and Sara is that you get friends. You don’t need a shopping buddy because the people who own this store are your shopping buddies,” Highlander said.

Highlander is an example of the kind of customer relationship Deel and Sturgen aim to achieve.

“We try to be friendly. We try to be welcoming. We want to treat everyone who walks in the door as a friend with the hope that after a period of time, they will actually become one,” Sturgen said. “I think that’s something you don’t typically see at a lot of retailers.”

It is this personable atmosphere that Deel and Sturgen believe is behind their business’ successes, which most recently includes winning the Ignite Award from West Virginia Executive Magazine.

“Ignite The Mountain State” is a annual statewide contest that provides a small business operating for two years or less with marketing assistance, business training and other promotional features to help their business succeed.

According to Bloomberg Business, 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first year but Deel and Sturgen say they have done more than just survived: they have thrived. Deel attributes this to their thorough planning.

“A lot of small businesses in West Virginia go into it with the plan to quit if they lose money after the first six months. We’re not like that. We’re in it for the long haul.””

— Sara Deel

“Sara and I are careful with our business plan,” Deel said. “We’ve both been in business for a long time, so we’re very conscientious about keeping our business above water. A lot of small businesses in West Virginia go into it with the plan to quit if they lose money after the first six months. We’re not like that. We’re in it for the long haul.”

Deel and Sturgen have always strived to be unique. The two originally started Old Main Emporium because they noticed dearth of Kelly green professional-wear in Huntington.

“We had worked at another vendor in town, and if you wanted to dress up or work professionally, the options you had were very limited,” Sturgen said. “That’s what our focus is, fashionable and professional.”

In addition, Deel and Sturgen say they want to bring something new to Marshall fans.

“A women this morning said, ‘You have some much cute stuff, so unusual for Marshall,’” Sturgen said. “It’s the biggest ego boost when someone comes in here and says, ‘You look like a boutique at an SEC school,’ because nobody goes to those football games without looking their best. That’s the mark we’re trying to hit.”

Sturgen says the way to meet this mark is through the store’s variety.

“We don’t have one single item that everyone buys out. We’re very strange for that reason,” Strugen said. “For example, two weeks ago, we couldn’t keep the Kelly green plaid fedora in stock. Now, they haven’t been touched since. This store works on customer preference, whatever seems to be happening with the universe that week.”

For this reason, Deel and Sturgen said they always try and mix up their inventory, buying from different collegiate vendors as well as independent artists and retailers.

The two said the hardest part about purchasing is finding Marshall’s distinct Kelly green.

“Kelly green is one of the most difficult colors to work with because it runs a spectrum of about six shades,” Sturgen said. “There are some things in here that look very blue to us, but when you put them out in the real world, it looks Kelly green.”

Deel noted the added difficulty of the color not always being “in”.

“In the fashion industry, Kelly green is know as a ‘fashion color’, so it goes in and out of style. For example, right now it’s not in style and so our regular wholesalers aren’t carrying it. This fall is all about olive,” Deel said.

Highlander said the selection of apparel in Kelly green is what she loves about the Emporium.

“You don’t have to be a Marshall fan to shop here,” Highlander said. “I can come in here and get something with Marshall emblazoned across it but also can pick something up for a wedding or to wear to the office that so that I can still have my little piece of green everywhere I go.”

Apart from providing this hard-to-find color, the owners pride themselves on supplying hard-to-find sizes. Strugen said one of her best memories was helping man find the right fit.

“He was a 5XL,” Sturgen said. “This gentleman came in with his wife and he had expectations that we weren’t going to be able to fit him in anything. He started loading his arms up with things and came up to the counter and said, ‘I never expected a little store like you to have anything I can wear,’” Sturgen said.

“We are not afraid to get on a plane and go to where we need to go in order to find cute stuff for everybody,” Sturgen added. “For the bigger guys and girls who aren’t used to being able to find anything, we try really hard to bring in a variety of products.”

Deel said their business plan for the future is to continue staying ahead of the curve.

“Sara and I thrive on finding new things. We’ve done some exclusives with people who won’t be exclusive anymore, so we will keep going after the things that people are not finding in order to stay ahead of the curve in originality,” Deel said. “For example, this season we’re doing Brooks Brothers, which is altogether new for Marshall. We just want to be as cutting edge as you can possibly be with university stuff.”

When asked for additional any comments, Deel and Sturgen said, “Go Herd!”

Rob Engle can be contacted at [email protected]