WTOP is proud to spotlight the many small businesses that make up the D.C. region as part of our Small Business September coverage. The Small Business September series is brought to you by EagleBank.
Would you want to work a job nearby your parent, siblings and romantic partner? That’s a reality for Logan Galbreath, who runs a boutique near Bethany Beach, Delaware, that she describes as “a coastal cowgirl, boho, hippie store.”
“We want you to step out of your box and add a little spice to your life,” Galbreath said of her clothing and accessory business Prickly Gal Boutique & Surf Shop.
Somewhat of an unlikely entrepreneur, Galbreath opened the storefront six years ago, shortly after she’d dropped out of college at 19 years old.
“I did not do it how your business teacher will tell you how to open a business,” Galbreath, now 25, told WTOP. “But I went for it.”
Since her store’s opening, one by one, Galbreath’s family has taken over a small strip off Atlantic Avenue — a route many D.C.-area vacationers know as the path to Bethany’s oceanfront.
‘My whole family is here.’
She employs her mother, Susan Galbreath, and older sister, Chelsea Gaona.
The latest Prickly Gal employee is Gaona’s 6-week-old baby boy, who will soon have his own nursery in the back of the store.
Around 100 feet away from Prickly Gal, her fiance, Clay Reynolds owns a food joint, Shaka Shack, where Logan’s brother Caleb Galbreath also works.
Madison Galbreath, another one of Logan’s sisters, provides the restaurant’s classic Smith Island Cakes and other sweets through her bakery, Driftwood Desserts.
“Literally, my whole family is here,” Logan Galbreath said. “Except my dad, unfortunately, he’s trying to get here.”
Though Logan Galbreath said it’s “cool” that the close knit family gets to work alongside each other, the route to familial domination and running a successful business hasn’t been straight for her.
Setting out to help people … one way or another
In 2018, Logan Galbreath was a second-year student with Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing in Lewes, Delaware. Her days were spent helping patients in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
After starting her clinicals, Logan Galbreath said the “heartbreak” drove her away from a career in health care. She dropped out of the program with no immediate backup plan.
“Obviously, my mom was devastated,” she told WTOP.
A trip to Puerto Rico sparked inspiration for Logan Galbreath, who said she noticed clusters of small businesses everywhere. With a passion for fashion and a desire to “help people,” she set her eyes on opening a boutique.
“I looked at rent in Bethany and my dreams were kind of crushed,” she said.
Reynolds’ mother owned an antiques store in Millville — a small town located around 3.5 miles away from Bethany Beach’s boardwalk — at the time. In a strike of what some might call fate, she decided that she didn’t want to run the business anymore and gifted the building to Logan Galbreath.
She had the space. Now, she needed to find a way to have the stuff to sell.
When scrolling online, Logan Galbreath stumbled upon an upcoming wholesale market in Atlanta, which only runs a few times a year.
“I literally drove overnight with my sister-in-law to this market, not having any idea what I was doing,” she said. For reference, that trip is more than 700 miles.
Prickly Gal opened in May 2018 with a small inventory or a couple of racks of clothes from that market. Now, she’s hired more staff and the store is chock-full of new styles and loyal customers — many of whom Logan Galbreath greets by name.
“I think you just need to follow your dreams and figure out what you want to do and just go for it,” Logan Galbreath said. “College isn’t for everybody and that’s OK.”
An unexpected wrench in the business plan — COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic forced many small business owners in vacation towns like Bethany Beach to reinvent their playbooks to stay open. The typical flow of vacationers dried up — and so did the money they’d normally spend.
Adding to the pressure for Logan Galbreath, Susan Galbreath had just left her stable office job behind to work for her daughter full time.
“My mom has really helped me grow my business,” Logan Galbreath said. “I couldn’t have done it without my mom.”
The store is seasonal and closes in the winter, so COVID lockdowns prevented the business from reopening in April 2020 as planned.
“We had all these summer pieces stocked in here just sitting,” she said.
To accommodate the “new normal,” Prickly Gal got its own website in the spring of 2020, accompanied with weekly launches of new clothing online.
“It just blew up,” Logan Galbreath said. “Thankfully, because it was scary for a while.”
Eventually, the storefront reopened by appointment only and with limits on how many shoppers were allowed inside at a time.
During and beyond the lockdowns, social media also served as a way to reach customers, many of whom are vacationers and aren’t local. It’s also the only form of marketing the business uses.
Outside of items being posted on her website for sale, Logan takes photos of new pieces and posts them on social media on Thursdays. She said some customers drive as far as an hour to come buy an item after seeing it posted on Instagram.
The business owner herself is quite the fan of the products she sells.
“I’m in the process of building a bigger closet right now because it’s hard, but you have to wear it to sell it,” she said, laughing.
What draws customers?
While tempting to hit some big retailers along the boardwalk, Logan Galbreath said shoppers benefit from shopping at small businesses while on vacation.
Prickly Gal is situated a couple miles from the ocean, which sometimes proves a challenge for bringing customers in. But the store brings a personal touch to the table that larger businesses lack, Logan Galbreath said.
Part of the appeal for shoppers at Prickly Gal is that the store typically doesn’t restock pieces, which usually come in bundles with 6-8 of each size in a shipment.
“We want everybody to have a unique piece, something that you don’t see everywhere and not everyone around town is wearing the same skirt or dress,” Logan Galbreath said.
Logan, Susan and Chelsea hand pick the items, helping the store to sell from customers ranging in age from teenagers to women in their 90s.
“There are certain customers who come in and love to be styled by my mom, because she’s closer to their age,” she said.
That bond is exactly what Logan Galbreath feels sets her business apart in a crowded market.
“I feel like at a bigger box store or a franchise you don’t get that connection, you don’t go in and see necessarily the same people that you know their back story, you know how it all started,” she said.
Logan Galbreath listed an example of a repeat customer who has helped her business — a woman named Charlie during a Pre Black Friday sale.
“She literally ran to this jacket she had her eye on, and she was like, ‘this is Christmas gifts for everybody in my family,’ and just grabbed the whole rack,” she recalled.
Though she admitted relationships — like those with habitual customers who drop in Thursdays at 10 a.m. — weren’t exactly part of the business plan.
“The connections are not anything that I would have imagined,” she said. “It’s on a whole ‘nother level that I’ve even thought was possible.”
Inviting in the competition
Logan Galbreath doesn’t just extend warm invitations to her business to customers, she also welcomes in the competition.
She’s hosted block parties, markets and even “Paint and Sip nights” on the lot where Prickly Gal and Shaka Shack sit — allowing other nearby businesses to sell locally grown flowers, food and even clothing right outside her boutique.
“A lot of other small business owners at first were like, ‘Whoa, that’s your competition, right?’ But like we see it in a different way,” Logan Galbreath said. “We’ve got to work together.”
In turn, she says other business owners find ways to promote Prickly Gal.
“We have a lot of people who will bring in a pair of pants from Water Lili, [and say] ‘oh, they sent me here to try to match a top,'” she said.
That bond with her community and customers is behind Prickly Gal’s continued growth, the business owner said. And Logan Galbreath says she doesn’t have plans to add more stores so that she can continue to know her customers.
“The reason my business is successful and why I keep going and keep pushing for is the connections and especially being in a small town, even though we do get a lot of out-of-staters and out-of-towners that travel here for vacation, you see the same ones too,” she said.
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