Valerie Mayen is both nervous and excited as she talks about taking
, the independent clothing company she built from the ground up, from pop-up to permanent. In March, the 31-year-old Texas native, who came to Cleveland to study at the Cleveland Institute of Art
and appeared on Season 8 of "Project Runway," will double her current retail space at W. 65th Street and Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square Arts District
Yellowcake's new 1,500-square-foot space will offer expanded clothing lines, more menswear and additional kids' clothing. Mayen also will teach classes and offer shared workspace. D-day will be in January when Mayen punches through the wall of the former podiatry office next door. When the dust settles, she'll outfit her shop with new lighting, flooring, paint, sewing equipment and shared work stations.
"We've been here for 18 months as a pop-up store, and we decided to stick it out because we love the neighborhood," says Mayen. Although sales of her higher-end, locally-made women's dresses, coats and clothing haven't been what she hoped, she inked a three-year lease out of confidence in the area's upswing. "We're working our asses off to make this corner spot look amazing," she says.
Mayen also benefited from a $10,000 grant from Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization's
inaugural Best Business Plan Competition. She will receive free rent during the buildout followed by a graduated payment schedule. The competition was funded by Councilman Matt Zone and Charter One Bank.
Mayen's long-planned co-working space for entrepreneurs in the fashion industry, Buzz and Growl
, will take up residence in Yellowcake's new headquarters. She will sell a handful of memberships initially and plans to offer classes and tours as well.
Mayen urged her fellow Clevelanders to shop local and independent businesses during the holiday season -- and beyond. "People are conditioned to think that Forever21 and H&M prices are the norm. I recognize that $98 for a cotton dress is a lot. Honestly, our prices should be about 20 percent higher. We don't put them higher because I understand that there's a price people are willing to pay."
While she's excited about her new permanent store, the ambitious designer, who has built Yellowcake with her own sweat equity and hard cash, is not one to rest. "I'm happy with who we are, what we are and where we're at... ish," she says.
Source: Valerie Mayen
Writer: Lee Chilcote