Mabel D. Orr Fashion Boutique, located at 118 Washington St., is a fashion boutique that sells vintage clothes and accessories. Heidi Weeks, owner of Mabel D. Orr Fashion Boutique, first opened the boutique in 2013 with her sister in the northern tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 2016, she became the sole owner of the boutique and relocated it to Binghamton, her hometown.
Weeks was introduced to the fashion industry at an early age, as she was surrounded by artistic people in her high school in New York City.
“I was always surrounded by really artistic, older and more mature people that were funky and from the city,” Weeks said. “I just always thought it was really cool. I liked old movies, I liked old clothing, and so I really got into it.”
In addition to owning a fashion boutique, Weeks has pursued a career as an actress. She said that her boutique has allowed her to continue acting while having a consistent job to fall back on.
“As I got into my late 40s as an actor, I decided I needed something else to fall back on because that career is not always consistent, especially with [COVID-19],” Weeks said.
Weeks described her goal with the boutique and her interest in repairing used clothes. She said that she sought to own a boutique that resembled older forms of shopping where people may be treated on a personal level and feel at home while shopping.
“I wanted to open my own boutique, where people can come in and feel pampered and shop like they used to,” Weeks said. “In the old days, when people would come in and really be treated like special, styled, ya know, ‘Sit in my living room, here have a glass of sparkling water and shop.’ I just feel like there’s so many unwanted things. Again, I’m in the business of clothing rescue, and we hunt and gather and clean and repair.”
Weeks said when she first opened Mabel D. Orr Fashion Boutique, there was a strong fear that came with starting a business and diving right in.
“[It felt] like jumping off a cliff [when] I originally opened the shop with my sister,” Weeks said. “Then she ended up moving away and I kept the business myself.”
Overall, however, Weeks said that through her experience as a business owner, she learned the importance of understanding her customers and to trust her instincts as she sought out clothes to rescue and repair.
“Just making sure you have what people want,” Weeks said. “It’s scary, the financial aspect of it. Balancing your books, advertising — I totally learned as I went. I just trusted my instincts and my love for clothing, and I listen to my customer.”
Mabel D. Orr Fashion Boutique found success through purchasing items that appeal to a diverse group. Weeks said the slogan of her store being connected to her goal as the owner of the boutique.
“My slogan is ‘Eclectic finds to suit all kinds,’” Weeks said. “That’s the key, ‘cause you have all walks of life in Binghamton.”
Weeks said Binghamton is growing and has new opportunities for business. She also mentioned the success Binghamton University graduates have experienced in opening businesses in the downtown area.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for both young men and women,” Weeks said. “You know you’ve got the [Koffman Southern Tier Incubator], which is a great place to start ideas. There are so many [BU] graduates who have stayed here and started businesses, and I see them being successful.”
Weeks described Binghamton as a misunderstood community and said she encourages students to consider Binghamton as a location for opening a business.
“Consider Binghamton because it is growing again,” Weeks said. “It’s having a face-lift. There’s a lot of empty spaces looking for businesses. We need new and young leadership in this town. And I think the more educated and diverse they are, the better for our town.”