Cathy Carter, owner
Pier 11 Boutique
77 11th St., Astoria
Trade between the Orient and the mouth of the Columbia River is a 200-plus year tradition and continues today through many small shops in Astoria and along the North Coast. This boutique melds the artistry of the West with the craftsmanship of the East for the benefit of both. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (503) 338-3831. See products designed by Carter and her son Jerome at (www.leilotus.com)
What do you do?
"I am an artist, painter, metal sculptor and clothing designer. I go to Nepal twice a year, eight months before each season, and show my designs to shops I support. They make samples and send them to me and then I order for the season. I describe the products, the hats, scarves, handbags, women's clothing, costume and silver jewelry I design as funky, affordable and fun. We celebrate the artistry of the Himalayas by blending modern and traditional designs to create an exciting collection of clothing, accessories and gift items. My large line of Nordic hats is very popular in this area, and I also carry toddler-age kids' clothing and felt products like booties and purses."
How did you get started with this business?
"I was working for a Nepalese company in Southern California and was taken to Nepal. I became so attached and drawn to the people and I felt a great desire to help them. The people of Nepal still live and work much as they did 75 years ago. Their 'factories' are really small mom- and-pop handcrafting studios and I work directly with them on a one-on-one basis to ensure that fair-trade practices are met. I work with an orphanage of 20 kids and thanks to all who support my business, these kids receive school supplies, sports equipment, tooth brushes and each one got their own warm blanket and wool hat. We have also been able to continue to send a 13-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy to school."
What can you tell us about your volume of business?
"As an example, I have over 2,000 hats and sell a couple hundred a year, and several hundred hand bags. There is not a lot of traffic here, but I can say that my sales here are up 40 percent from last year. The local people are realizing that I am here and I get more and more business due to word of mouth. My main business, about 75 percent, is wholesale distribution through my Lei Lotus label to 300 stores in the United States. Bookstores, health food stores, boutiques, hair salons and museums put in orders from once every two weeks to two months. "
What is your strategy for coping with the recession?
"Every season I try to increase my wholesale volume by sending out my catalog. I send out 2,000, twice a year. For local shoppers I have a 40 percent off rack. Some of my customers come just to shop the discount rack. My prices are already so affordable that everyone can enjoy comfort and elegance in a time of recession. Most shirts sell for less than $30 and I have 40 to 50 different embroidered bags for $25."