February 28 signals more than just the end of the month for Dorothy Egger, it’s the end of an era. After 30 years of selling clothing in downtown Blacksburg, Egger will be permanently closing the doors of her current boutique, Mad Dog.
Egger bought the store with her daughter in 2003 after owning and running the consignment store, Second Seasons, for 21 years.
“It’s been a fun store to have, it really has,” Egger said, but added that she’s experienced significant challenges over the years at Mad Dog.
The 2008 recession hit the store hard and Egger was forced to drop prices and find cheaper clothing. Despite attempts to cut costs and generate business, Egger said she continued to see revenue fall every year.
“It’s been hard to climb out of that,” Egger said.
The situation became so difficult that Egger seriously considered closing the store in 2013, but was talked out of it by friends and customers.
“I wasn’t ready [to close], so it was easy for me to keep trying,” Egger said. “But it’s just gotten worse over the years.”
Egger said a lack of foot traffic in downtown Blacksburg has hurt business. She said people often complain about too few parking spaces, though Egger doesn’t feel this is actually much of a problem in Blacksburg as long as one is willing to walk a little bit.
“Townspeople perceive downtown as being full of young people and they don’t want to have to deal with students,” Egger said. “It’s the whole ‘perceived’ thing that’s the problem,”
Egger believes the rise of online shopping has also negatively affected sales.
“Students are either on campus or in their apartments. They can be in their pajamas ordering clothes now,” Egger said.
Egger said she thinks customers may not realize they are sacrificing quality for convenience when they shop online.
“You can order online, but then it comes and you wonder what you were thinking,” Egger said. “When it’s online, you can’t see the quality, you can’t see the material.”
Egger said she has tried a variety of marketing strategies to attract more customers, but has not found much success. The store has an active social media presence and Egger said she has tried to advertise on Virginia Tech’s campus by handing out flyers outside of a cafeteria.
Egger said she also placed ads in the Collegiate Times, but that at $500 per ad, it became too expensive.
Some students will be directly affected by the store’s closure because Egger employs four students every semester.
Caroline Moore, a third-year food science technology student at Virginia Tech, has been working at Mad Dog since September 2016.
Moore said she primarily shops at boutiques because “you find things you wouldn’t find elsewhere.” However, she also finds herself shopping online, in part because of lenient return policies.
“I’ll buy three different sizes and return two,” Moore explained.
When Mad Dog closes, Moore said she is planning on focusing on finding an internship instead of a new job.
Egger said she’ll miss the hunt for good-quality, reasonably priced clothing “at market,” the wholesale apparel events where boutique owners purchase clothing.
However, Egger is also looking forward to what the future will bring. Though she is unsure of what she will pursue during her newfound free time, Egger said she is looking into getting a real estate license.
The future of the storefront’s is similarly uncertain but Egger said she hopes it will be retail.
“The more retail you have, the more draw you have,” Egger said.
Merchandise at Mad Dog is currently at least 50 percent off its original price, and will continue to drop in price as Feb. 28 approaches, Egger said.