Tigers & Tulips Thrives Five Years After Opening in Hinsdale
Owner Tiffany Shriver's shop started as a women's shoe store, but has evolved into quite a bit more over the last few years.
When Tigers & Tulips' owner Tiffany Shriver bought the building that currently houses her store five years ago, she intended to use the decade of experience she'd gained working in shoes at a boutique and a Nordstrom in Connecticut, among other locations, to open her own shoe store.
Initially, she focused on selling women's high heels, with some children's shoes and gifts in the back of the store.
Now, "we've become the largest independent shoe store in the western suburbs," Shriver said.
Shriver has maintained a successful business in this tough economy by continuing to adapt. She has kept business booming in her store by expanding her merchandise to include toys, games, gifts, and other products in order to suit her customers.
"We wanted to be something more than shoes," she said. "We knew we had to do something different."
Because people only need shoes a few times a year, Shriver wanted Tigers & Tulips to have other items available that would draw customers in year-round. The children's section is in the back, so parents have to walk through the women's section to get to the kids' merchandise. Shriver hopes that busy moms who don't have time to shop for themselves can use their trips to Tigers & Tulips to buy shoes and gifts for the whole family.
Shriver has a knack for selecting products to sell in her store. She said that Tigers & Tulips saw a turning point three-and-a-half years ago, when Shriver started selling Japanese erasers for $1 each. The tiny toys, which are erasers in addition to being puzzles, are hard to find but popular with kids.
"Hundreds of people come in looking for the erasers and then end up getting other things," Shriver said.
She had similar success when Tigers & Tulips became one of the first local businesses to sell Silly Bandz a few years ago. Shriver believes that having these small, inexpensive items available draws in kids who might not have a lot of money to spend.
"You don't find toys for fifty cents or a dollar anymore," she said. "Kids can come in and spend their allowance."
Shriver has embraced her middle-school-aged customers, and encourages them to come in on their own or with their parents.
"The junior high kids are fabulous," she said. "We treat them like adults, so they act like adults. [Both kids and adults] want a good experience; if there's poor customer service, they don't feel good about their experience."
Shriver's commitment to accessible customer service extends to adult customers, as well. Tigers & Tulips' team is small; it includes just Shriver and store manager Tricia Toth, but they manage to do the sales volume of a team four times that size.
"We're a small team, but we're effective," Shriver said. "The hours are nuts, but it's fun."
Shriver has considered hiring new employees, but said they're "looking for the right people," as she wants to maintain a consistent experience for her customers.
Shriver likes that her customers know that when they come to Tigers & Tulips, they'll see her or Tricia.
"It's nice for the kids; it's a routine," she said. "When people come to a boutique, they want service."
Another aspect of the business that Toth is responsible for is the store's social media presence. The store's website is dedicated solely to one of Tigers & Tulips' biggest sellers, AGL shoes , which are all custom-made. Tigers & Tulips is one of just a handful of AGL retailers in the country; the store offers free shipping and returns on the shoes, which ship within six hours of an online order.
Toth also maintains the store's ever-evolving Facebook page. In addition to featuring the store's newest products, Toth and Shriver also post pictures of Tigers & Tulips' youngest customers with their new shoes.
"Social media is mandatory," Shriver said. "We want to be ahead of the curve."
To that end, the Tigers & Tulips Facebook page also posts about community events. Shriver makes an effort to participate in local holiday celebrations, like the village's 4th of July parade.
"Every time someone asks us to do something, we say yes," Shriver said. "We want to involve ourselves in the community."
Shriver hopes that local shoppers continue to make Tigers & Tulips a regular destination. In addition to the store's convenient downtown Hinsdale location ("You don't have to go to the mall") and its reasonable pricing, Shriver is most proud of her ability to provide a personalized shopping experience.
"I know what my customers want before they do."