Newly branded Fringe Western Wear owners Riley Arends, Morgan Pingel and Charlotte Smarr are expanding their western-inspired boutique to offer a wider range of apparel — and boots, of course — at what used to be the Ruby Tuesday by Bass Pro Shops.
Arends, Pingel and Smarr are not only business partners; they’re family. Arends and Pingel are sisters, and Smarr is their mother. “Our parents own several businesses in Columbia, so we’ve all worked together in some sense my entire life,” Pingel says. “It’s just second nature to us to work within our family. There are crazy times to it — it has its pros and cons — but we don’t know anything different.”
As a family-owned business, the team of women decided it was time to broaden their brand. “We were looking to expand because we wanted more room, and more parking for our customers,” Pingel says. “Plus, we wanted to own our own building that we could build and renovate to our needs.”
“We really liked being downtown — The District is an amazing community — so it was a really hard decision for us. Our downtown location had great foot traffic, especially during sorority moms’ weekends and MU football game weekends,” she says.
The search for land to build a new location began last year, but because of high building costs — and new additions to both Arends’s and Pingel’s families — the expansion got put on the back burner, Pingel says. Just before she and her sister had their babies, the possibility of purchasing the old Ruby Tuesday location popped up.
“Although it’s a little out of the way compared to downtown,” Pingel says, “it has ample parking and we like that it’s next to Bass Pro Shops and Menards. We’re hoping people out shopping and working on home improvement projects will swing in and see us.
“This location makes us become a little more of a destination. Rather than getting the foot traffic of downtown, it will be people coming specifically to shop with us.”
But how, one might ask, does a person go about renovating a restaurant into a retail space? Lots of gutting, Pingel says. They replaced the floors, re-painted, removed everything from the commercial kitchen, changed lighting fixtures, and painted the exterior a more neutral mocha color. What was once the kitchen is now Fringe’s boot barn area, and what was the bar is a boot-try-on station.
The biggest change from Fringe Boutique to Fringe Western Wear is the expansion of their offerings for children, and the addition of men’s clothing and footwear. “We are still wanting to keep the women’s boutique look because we’ve established a big customer base, but we’re wanting to expand into more Western brands such as Wrangler, Ariat and Cinch. We’re also dipping our toe into kids’ offerings to see how that goes,” Pingel says. What’s cuter than a little kid in a pair of boots, though?
Fringe Western Wear opened at 3310 Vandiver Drive in late August.