A Vintage Mecca in OTR
Moe Rouse loves the work she does at Mannequin Boutique. For her, it’s so much more than a shop: It’s part of her voyage in self-discovery, Rouse says. "I think the mission itself has always been so exciting," she says. "I’ve begun to take on a role that frankly I have never planned for."
Rouse has run the shop on Vine Street in the heart of Over-the-Rhine for just under a year. It began as an extension of a philanthropic warehouse sale she ran for ten years downtown. She makes sure the stock of goods at Mannequin Boutique includes some of the highest quality secondhand designer handbags, dresses, coats, blazers, shoes and jewelry, she says. She also says she works hard to find and sell well-preserved vintage pieces. "There is nothing in our shop that there is two of," says Rouse.
But it’s not the fashionista inside of Rouse that comes out when she talks about Mannequin – rather, it’s the part of her that wants to give back to the city she’s lived in for 43 years.
Rouse says she wants people to discover Mannequin Boutique as a place to "shop without guilt." As such, she has set up the boutique to give all profits to seven local charities: Freestore Foodbank, First Step Home, Lighthouse Youth Services, One Way Farm for Abused Children, Stop AIDS, Tender Mercies and the UCAN Spay/Neuter Clinic.
"In that way, I hope it’s instilling a sense of philanthropy in younger women, especially some of the younger ladies that shop in the store," says Rouse. "I want them to know that the person who donated the piece was giving, and the person who buys that piece is also a giver."
And in this last year, Rouse says she’s found that running Mannequin is not only about giving money back to organizations in the city that need it. She says she’s discovered it’s also been important for her business to become a recognizable, important part of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. "I think that is what continues to make it so challenging," says Rouse. "I am hopeful that with the help of my volunteers, we can make a difference."
Rouse tells says she’s seen that happen even in the smallest of ways: For example, shoppers at Mannequin can now get their clothing tailored by an OTR resident, Sheriann. Rouse says Sheriann got hit hard by the recession, but is extremely talented when it comes to finishing and creating clothing.
So when Rouse heard her story, she says there was no way she’d refuse to let Sheriann set up shop in part of the Mannequin space. "All the money she makes will go to her," says Rouse.
Rouse also says she’s looking into other ways to give back through the store, and that at the end of the day, that is Mannequin’s mission. Every day, she says, it’s a new discovery. "I think most people, when you do something good for them, they are grateful," says Rouse. "And then they turn around, and they’ll do something good, too."
Mannequin Boutique is open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.