The origins of Ann Love, a downtown Grand Forks boutique inspired and infused by classic stylings and design tastes, are not what you might expect—unless you get to know founder, Callie Bylin.
Set up to showcase sleek, era-proof attire for the business woman that is just starting, or is already established, the boutique mixes open floor space, clothes displays, clean and orderly lines and a less-is-more approach to create a powerful boutique experience. Don’t confuse less-is-more with a lack of options. The Ann Love store, at nearly 3,000 square feet, has a massive array of options ranging from pants to blouses to dresses to boots. There are sections for formal nights, and other racks for running errands while looking great. The space feels complete and established, as if it could be in any major metro. The store’s simplicity and leanings to classic outfits with a modern tweak, scream confidence. The people running the store certainly know what they are doing, and it feels (even though it isn’t the case) as if the team behind Ann Love grew up in the fashion industry and have master’s degrees in business and style and all things boutique.
The truth is, Callie Bylin’s Ann Love store is a reflection of a person who embraces what she loves and a person who isn’t afraid to take a risk to chase a passion. There was no previous fashion degree or time spent globetrotting the world’s greatest fashion events. Bylin is certainly a fashion and business expert, but she is also a real-life farmgirl. When she isn’t meeting with clothing wholesalers, she might be driving a combine or tending to the chores on her acreage west of town. Since she was little, she’s always loved clothes and dressing people. She loves design and classic furniture as well (check out her classic Victorian couch in the store). Bylin also loves animals, including Ann, her dog, the very dog that you guessed it, is the genesis of her store’s name. With her first child coming soon, she isn't afraid of adding more to her already busy schedule, she says. Her husband and co-founder is great at everything.
A few years ago, Bylin started buying and selling her favorite styles through a boutique she created online. Running the online boutique from her country home, she soon realized she was good at finding clothes people wanted to buy, and, that her country home was too small to store her inventory.
“I’d always dreamed of running my own boutique,” she says. When she said that, the words came out very matter-of-fact. It is who Bylin appears to be. She knows what she wants, and she goes after it all until she gets it. Everything she says of her store and what people should expect is clear and concise. She has little doubt in what she offers. She only hesitates in trying to explain all that she hopes to accomplish. There was a hint of farmgirl shyness and humbleness to her statement about her early dream to own a boutique, but it also came with a presence of a to-the-point attitude that clearly helps her just get things done.
Much of her early success since opening her business roughly one year ago, stems from her roots in the region, she says. “Farming certainly taught me how to have a strong work ethic,” Bylin says. It has also taught her how to deal with outside factors that impact foot traffic at the boutique that have always been out of her control, she says.
Being A Must-Stop Boutique To compete in the women’s clothing boutique space, Bylin knows she has to stay on top of trends, make her own and continually update her offerings. The store relies on classic pieces (think black blazers or go-to pants). Bylin recently added more size offerings with sizes ranging from extra small (XS) to 3X. She provides group styling events and has outfitted entire organizations or sororities that have special attire requirements for upcoming events. And then there is the pet approach. Bylin always has pet-themed or animal-linked offerings. “The dog stuff always sells right away,” she says.
“I’ve always been good at helping people,” Bylin says. Set to be a new mom, Bylin would still be helping on her family farm if she hadn’t been persuaded to take a break before the baby. Along her journey, she’s also had help. Her husband, Roman, a co-founder in the business, has helped with the business operations. Her mother, now a full-time employee, helps at the store. Ann, the dog, even shows up at the store once in a while. The entire team travels to Las Vegas for wholesaler shows. Nearly every day Bylin talks with her friends and family about style or clothing options for the store. When she is at the farm, she’s thinking about display hangers or a brand of footwear she might add. In the future, she wants to add Ann Love originals. The theme will be linked to farming and supporting local farmers or growers.
It is hard to get Bylin to talk about her favorite pieces in the store. There are too many, she says with a grin, and there are always more on the way. The boutique and the clothing or offerings in it are all her passion she says, and the thing she is most proud of. “Taking the risk and doing the one thing I love the way I want to do it is the thing I’m most proud of.” G
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PHOTOS BY PJ Cole Photography From Issue 6, 2019