Juliette Collins had always wanted her own store. The only problem was, for many years she kept getting great jobs, which always made it hard to take that initial leap.
After graduating from Nevada Union High School in 1983, Collins high-tailed it for Chicago, where she landed a job at Crawford’s, a large department store. She was working for a buyer in the “domestics” department, when the buyer suddenly became ill. Immediately, young Collins found herself taking on the duties and responsibilities of her boss.
She loved it.
After going back to school and obtaining her retail merchandising certificate, Collins landed a job as a “home scents” buyer at Crawford’s and was quickly promoted to buyer for the junior’s department.
“I’d spend four days buying and one on the floor,” said Collins. “It’s always important to spend time on the floor, to listen to customers, see what people are trying on, and check in with the sales staff.”
After six years’ worth of experience at Crawford’s, Collins had more than proven herself professionally.
“When you buy things you don’t like and they sell well,” she said, “you’ve become a true buyer.”
Collins moved back to Grass Valley in the late ’90s, and immediately landed a job managing a local clothing store. But her dream of owning her own clothing store was percolating. She’d developed a business plan and began buying up store fixtures.
“I really wanted a smaller boutique with my own signature,” she said. “I really wanted to pick out the merchandise myself.”
In 2001, Collins opened Wild Side in downtown Grass Valley. Now located on Mill Street across from the Del Oro Theater, the store originally opened on Main Street.
The women’s store was a hit from the start, said Collins, who said she has never had a problem attracting customers.
“My goal has always been to find the cutest stuff at the lowest price,” she said. “We’re comparable to Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe. Our customers tend to range in age from teens to mid 40s.”
Now in her 13th year of business, Collins said she’s seen longtime customers grow up and come in with babies of their own. They often come in seeking advice on outfits for special events, such as dances, birthdays, graduations and weddings, she said.
But finding up-to-the-minute fashion at reasonable prices is no easy task. Collins goes on buying trips to cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas every three weeks.
“I have to travel because I can’t buy things I’ve only seen in a picture,” she said. “I also work hard to get good bargains for our customers. We have a big turn over of merchandise. If you were here last week, the store looks completely different now.”
Occasionally Collins’ daughter, Justine — who works at Wild Side — accompanies her mother on buying trips, which both say they enjoy. Collins’ step daughter, Chelsea, also helps out on the floor.
Two additional employees, Joanna Ten Eyck and Cori Medlyn, also hold down the fort while Collins is out on buying trips.
Despite a demanding schedule, Collins said she doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon.
“I’ve always loved my job and I love the relationships we have with our longtime customers,” she said. “Since I was young, everything has led me to this point.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.