President/Treasurer, Magnolia on Main
Bernie Rupcich, S'81, had never operated her own business, but the idea of owning a fashion truck in the wake of the food truck craze was too attractive to pass up. Her mobile retail fashion truck--Magnolia on Main--functions much like a pop-up venue, bringing athletic/leisure wear, accessories and home accents into convenient locations within the Pittsburgh metro region. Her sister served as the catalyst for the original idea, as it was she who sent Bernie an article covering Pittsburgh's fashion truck scene. Bernie was intrigued and wondered whether or not it was her time to be part of this changing retail landscape. She and Kim DiMarco, her friend of over 30 years, decided that last year was indeed the right time, and together spent a fun couple of months competitive shopping in boutiques across town.
While researching the regional market, Bernie and Kim decided to utilize the resources of Duquesne University's Small Business Development Center (SBDC). This training ultimately enabled the two former fashion buyers and merchandisers to bring the idea of Magnolia on Main to life. The SBDC's Transition into Business Ownership program is designed to turn unemployed workers and transitioning professionals into small business owners. Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, this program provides intensive, 20-hour training over four days. Rupcich admits, "Had I not attended the SBDC's intensive course last fall, I simply wouldn't have been prepared to run my own business. The training is thorough; they teach legality, tax implications, how to form your own corporation, how to identify your demographic, and so much more. I realized that I was almost blind going into our venture, and this course made the path smoother." She and Kim both credit their SBDC education as equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to open shop.
Ms. Rupcich, who calls herself "a Southerner at heart," says that she has always loved the magnolia flower and likes the connection between its fleeting blooms and the trends of fashion. "On Main" alludes to the community and small town vibes that the owners believe the truck-- affectionately known as Maggie-radiates. Ms. Rupcich laughs when she thinks about her unconventional path from biology major (with a biochemistry minor) to fashion retail entrepreneur, but recognizes that her problem-solving skills acquired in college are being used daily in her career. "The training I received studying science at Duquesne has carried me through." A part-time job during college in a small, local department store led to Bernie working full-time as a retail executive, at Macy's for most of her career. Based in Pittsburgh, Bernie travelled to New York City several times per month for seven years and has held merchandising, operations and leadership positions at Monroeville Mall, South Hills Village Mall and the Mall at Robinson.
Rupcich knows that a mobile boutique offers convenience, but their focus remains on providing customer service. . "We recognize that fashion is alive and well-- and evolving--in Pittsburgh. We want to be part of this evolution; we have a lot of fun with customers, and hopefully our store and the people in it offers a real community feeling," says Rupcich. On April 22, Bernie and Kim participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Duquesne's campus, paying tribute to the SBDC, the place where they developed their business acumen.
Magnolia on Main will be parked in Mellon Square on Mondays in Downtown Pittsburgh throughout the summer