By Kathleen Luppi Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Business is a family affair for the Skala sisters.
Katie, 28, and Jessica, 23, are the force behind the innovative fashion truck Waves of Attire: Rolling Boutique, a mobile clothing and accessories retailer.
Taking their cue from food trucks, the fashion merchants are hitting the streets of Orange County and opening shop in homes, offices or neighborhoods that have booked the roving delivery van for shopping parties. The dressing room may be tiny -- a corner of the truck is blocked off with a seashell-decorated bath curtain -- but the payoff is beach-inspired clothing and accessories at reduced prices and greater shopping convenience.
"This is just a ton of fun," Katie said on a Friday night. The fashion truck pulled up curbside and opened shop outside a Huntington Beach home that had booked the boutique for a private party.
"It just feels natural to go into business together," Jessica said.
Katie had taken a few fashion courses and discussed her dreams of working in the clothing industry with their mother. Then, inspirated by food trucks, she thought she could apply the mobile concept to the selling of bohemian-inspired looks to girls who favor tees, shorts and flip-flops.
Jessica wanted to jump onboard.
So the two looked up classified advertisements website Craigslist.org and searched for a vendor selling a food truck. They stumbled across a delivery truck bearing a picture of a smiling white bear wearing a baker's hat. The Skalas' future bread and butter would be earned in an 18-year-old Bimbo Bakery truck with over 100,000 miles on the odometer.
"It looked gnarly," Katie said.
Upon opening the rear door, the women found steel rails. It would take four weeks to demolish the interior.
The two turned to their cousin, a fabricator, to install flooring and lighting and construct shelves, drawers and a cash register station. With a new distinctive exterior, courtesy of a teal decal and drawings of white waves, the truck, which launched in October, has been successful at attracting customers seeking endless-summer looks at affordable prices.
Nothing in the truck costs more than $50.
"I tried to keep it reasonable," said Katie, who finds her vendors at trade shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. "Everything in here, I would wear."
The stock, proudly boho chic, includes denim shorts, jewelry, hats and beanies. The merchandise is changed about every two to three weeks.
Their clientele, nicknamed "waves babes" by the owners, like to look through tank tops costing $18 to $26, distressed denim priced at $32 and maxi dresses selling for $30 to $40.
"Half the people walk out wearing the clothing," Katie said.
To let customers know where their next stop is, the sisters track the truck's locations through social media and constantly update their website's calendar and online photo-sharing networking system Instagram. They have stops planned at Cal State Fullerton throughout February and March.
Once they park the truck at the designated spot, the Skalas stay for four to six hours. As a courtesy, the women position chairs for the husbands and boyfriends of the female shoppers to rest in.
One challenge is getting business permits in certain cities that want to protect their brick-and-mortar shops. The sisters said this obstacle makes them prefer special events.
"Private parties are just better because you get more one-on-one time with the customer," Katie said. "You just want them to walk in here feeling like they've known you the whole time."
And then there is van maintenance.
"We're learning to be handy," the two said after admitting they glued driftwood on the wall's mirrors and hung wallpaper on the truck's ceiling.
"You kind of become a part-time mechanic," Jessica said.
After their daily appearances, Katie and Jessica park their truck in the family home's driveway. They're currently negotiating a rental agreement on a covered vehicle storage space.
Also on their minds is picking out end-of-winter and upcoming spring looks.
"If you love what you do, you can't fail," Katie said before jokingly singing Bill Withers' "Just the Two of Us" to Jessica.
"We're just having so much fun."
WAVES OF ATTIRE: ROLLING BOUTIQUE Owners: Katie and Jessica Skala Year founded: 2014 Specialty: Bohemian-inspired clothing Information: (657) 200-5503 or wavesofattire.com