Why One New Orleans Boutique Owner Says Shopping Local is More Important Than Ever
For Mariah Walton Bencik, it’s all about relationships.
Stylish New Orleanians and savvy Instagram shoppers will recognize Mariah Walton Bencik as the owner and curator of West London Boutique, a tiny gem of a shopping destination on Magazine Street; and if you’ve read our August issue, you’ll also recognize her as one of our 2020 New Southern Tastemakers. This summer, Bencik is adding another title to the list: author.
Her new book, Retail, She Wrote: Five Simple Keys to Unlocking Your Success in Retail, hit local bookstores (and Amazon, for those of us not lucky enough to call New Orleans home) last month, and it’s the product of Bencik’s 20+ years in the retail business (BUY IT: $17; amazon.com).
“We are not to sit on our gifts and talents; we are to share them,” says Bencik. “COVID gave us a lot of things. One thing it gave me was time to compile every article or blog post I’ve ever written, every thought, every frustration I’ve ever had with the retail industry into a narrative, into this book, and make it make sense.”
There was a little serendipity involved too: Her neighbor, an editor at Forbes, helped her fine-tune the details and introduced her to two local stores (Octavia Books and Blue Cypress Books), which now carry the book.
“I've never wanted to be just another boutique,” says Bencik of why she penned Retail, She Wrote. “We're so much more than 500 square feet! I wanted to offer a service that would spotlight us and have us be unique in our area. For me, that service is teaching and writing about retail and customer service etiquette. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Unlike clothing, we will never outgrow it. It will never go out of style.”
For those who don’t understand why she’s so quick to share her secrets with other retailers, her answer is simple: “We need our local businesses to thrive as best as we can. If anyone of us has knowledge to share or wisdom to offer, it would behoove us to go and get it!”
One of her nuggets of wisdom?
“It’s never about the sale,” she says. “Yes, this is our livelihood, but it should always be about the relationship you build.”
It’s the connections you foster, whether in person or online (and the thank you notes you send), she says, that keep people coming back—even in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Even though we’re dealing with COVID, even though it’s crazy and everyone is suffering in some way, shape, or form, I have found that the majority of people want to see local businesses succeed,” says Bencik. “People want that warmth; they want that connection. When you go into a big box store or chain retailer, you might lose that. We’re here because we love what we do. It’s what we eat, sleep, and breathe. We truly love to come to these businesses because they’re ours. You walk in and see the owner. We’re here. It’s personal.”
WATCH: How the South's Beloved Commander's Palace Is Feeding New Orleans' Frontline Heroes