The CAT Walk Boutique
Industry: Clothing Retail
Address: 1404 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
The CAT Walk Boutique is a niche fashion boutique that carries designers from all over the world. Among the pieces it carries are eclectic attire ranging from Chanel to the unknown Italian designer. Customers may also select from a rack dedicated local designers of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area, including Maryland and Virginia.
In 2010 Carolyn A. Thomas opened The CAT Walk Boutique with a goal of building a local retail business that could support her in retirement.
At the CAT Walk –which is based in the the District of Columbia’s H Street Corridor– Thomas works with boutique designers to craft her store’s unique collection. Though she has faced challenges running her shop during a major construction project in her neighborhood, several partnerships and practical business training have made her store stronger than ever.
Thomas had operated the store without help for the first several years, but growth was slow. She realized the limitations of her business model and her lack of knowledge of her customers.
“I couldn’t even see. I had no idea where it was going,” Thomas said.
But in 2012 Thomas received grant funding as part of the H Street Retail Funding program, which made it possible for her to renovate The CAT Walk’s storefront. Later that year Thomas applied to Wacif for a zero-interest loan through the Streetscape Relief Loan Fund, a public-private partnership between Wacif and the government of the District of Columbia.
Wacif’s assistance made it possible for Thomas to make improvements to The CAT Walk, to hire staff and to purchase additional inventory. In all, Wacif gave Thomas $60,000, broken down into one loan of $40,000, and another loan of $20,000.
As The CAT Walk grows, Thomas continues to work with Wacif staff, including Credit Analyst Schuyler Woods, to make sure her business stays on track. Together, Thomas and Woods identify opportunities to cut expenses while increasing revenue.
“Sometimes it just takes another set of eyes to awaken new ideas and possibilities,” Woods said.
Thanks to hard work and a little help from Wacif, Thomas’ faith in her business to support her in retirement has been renewed.
“Now I think it could happen. I never imagined being right here,” Thomas said.