ROCHELLE – The owners of Midwestern Clothing Company didn’t anticipate trying to open a storefront until at least 2022.
Haley and Kelsey Kersten and Alyssa Fortson started their own clothing brand last October with limited online releases and sales each week. On Saturday, they opened their own full storefront at 413 W. 4th Ave. in downtown Rochelle.
After starting to sell some items in person at a space inside Remedy Boutique Tanning earlier this year, the trio knew their timeline could move up.
“It has grown way quicker than we could've ever imagined,” Haley said. “Which is amazing, but I do credit Remedy a lot for that. That was us taking a risk. That really changed things for us financially and with exposure. A lot more people were willing to stop in rather than do it online.”
The brand sells women’s clothing and has started to bring in more unisex inventory. The shop will be open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Midwestern Clothing Company used to sell three or four items a week. Now the Kerstens and Fortson are unsure how much more inventory they can fit in their store.
The idea to start MCC came from a desire to be self-employed.
“I was thinking about it one day and I was like, 'I want to do something I love that I have a passion for,'” Haley said. “I texted Kelsey and told her let's do something. She texted me back right away and was like, 'Oh my gosh. Alyssa just said that.'”
The Kerstens have been friends with Fortson since they were in fifth and sixth grade. The partnership seemed like a natural thing to do.
“Now we enjoy what we do,” Fortson said. “We don't dread going into work.”
“I love the thought of not having to work except for here in the future,” Kelsey said.
Almost all of MCC’s sales come from the Rochelle area. The trio have heard from customers that they’re glad not to travel to Rockford or DeKalb or look for clothing at Walmart.
Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Herrera said it’s likely been over 20 years since there was a clothing shop downtown.
“People want to buy,” Haley said. “They want to support local. You can tell. When they come in, they want to find something. They want somewhere in town. The community has been amazing.”
The trio hopes to add men’s clothing at some point, along with children’s apparel and more accessories. Keeping up with trends and staying affordable are at the top of their list of priorities.
The Kerstens and Fortson called the learning curve of starting their own business “terrifying,” but some experience with finance and banking has helped them to succeed.
Working together has brought the owners closer.
“I'm with Kelsey all the time but there was a long time where we didn’t make the time with Alyssa to hang out like we used to,” Haley said. “I'm with Alyssa almost every day of the week now and it's the best thing ever. We're always all three together.”
The Midwestern Clothing Company owners have appreciated the community’s support as their business has grown.
“If the community wasn't involved we wouldn't have been at this point,” Haley said. “We really owe it all to Rochelle, honestly. We hope they're excited as we are."