The Ann Arbor business scene is known for its turnover — and boutiques are no exception.

Pink Pump, for instance, closed its East Liberty Street doors in the beginning of 2013 with patrons blaming high prices and inconsistent hours. Chains such as Pitaya, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel are some of the few stores that prosper in the State Street area, as student budgets might not allow for the pricier clothes in local boutiques.

When Verbena owner Kate Duerksen opened her clothing store in August of this year, she had her work cut out for her. The business opened its doors at 309 S. State St. on Aug. 16.

All About Blue, which sold University spirit-wear, occupied the space until The M Den bought out the business. Duerksen managed All About Blue, which her father owned. According to the property agreement, the Duerksens kept 1,500 square feet of the space. Next door, The Victors Collection, which is owned by the M Den, is the second tenant in the lease.

Duerksen graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in interior design and transformed the former spirit shop into a fashion hub.

Verbena is working to appeal to the college student budget and to a wide range of styles, Duerksen said.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fashionable,” Duerksen said. “The student price line is probably the first thing we look for while buying.”

The store caters to a host of tastes, which Kate described as urban, bohemian and earthy. In addition to selling clothes, Verbena offers unusual wares such as rustic mermaid bottle openers, knick-knack dishes, globes, local crafts and even small plants — yes, succulents are sold among mini-skirts.

“I’ve been, from the beginning, envisioning the college girl and what you can do to make your dorm room your own,” Duerksen said.

Clothing, jewelry and decorative products create a vibe that is unique to the boutique.

“We’re quite a few things,” Duerksen said. “I think it’s important (while choosing merchandise) to look for more than just your own style and branch out.”

Shortly after opening, Information junior Samantha Coffman approached Duerksen and offered to help the store connect with students through social media.

“They hadn’t had a lot of publicity yet on campus,” Coffman said. “And I kind of know the demographic.”

Coffman developed a social media plan for Verbena, which included promoting the business on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Coffman said although she helped shape the store’s advertising strategy, she sees herself more as an event planner.

“They want to imitate that for the future,” Coffman said. “That’s kinda where my role more is rather than just daily social media, but I definitely think my official position is I advise on social media and how they should be approaching it.”

For example, Verbena recently hosted a Greek life-exclusive event that offered sorority members a 15-percent discount on merchandise. Duerksen said although this event was not open to non-Greek life members, she hopes to host many more events for anyone who is interested.

In line with hosting events for students, the store’s broader marketing strategy focuses on appealing to locals first. However, Coffman said this is just the start.

“Our goal for the future is to have the social media grow so much that the business grows as a brand outside of Ann Arbor,” Coffman said. “And to get ecommerce going for the boutique so it’s profitable not just in Ann Arbor, but online.”

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