The future is mobile for these Baton Rouge area boutiques
Susan Charlet has gotten used to it. When people first step inside her Barlow boutique, it’s always a chorus of the same exclamations: “Oh my gosh,” or “It’s so cute.”
And inevitably, the next reaction usually is: “This place is much roomier than it looks from the outside.”
The exterior looks like a compact box on wheels. Wrapped in stylish pink, yellow and blue stripes and crowned by a pink neon sign that reads “Barlow,” it’s the kind of structure that immediately catches your eye and makes you want to peek inside. Whitewashed wood floors and built-in white shelving help the interior feel light and airy. An abstract mural in blue, pink and gold—painted on one wall by Charlet’s son, Cage—adds personality.
Like a well-organized walk-in closet, everything has its place. Dresses and blouses hang neatly from rose gold-capped velvet hangers. Hats and bags are perched on shelves. There’s even a private dressing room with a floor-to-ceiling mirror and a bench. Shoppers can try on dressy-casual shirts and dresses from brands like English Factory, THML, En Saison, AG Jeans and Articles of Society.
The stock caters to a variety of ages and backgrounds. “I can buy something, or my daughter can buy something,” Charlet says.
Charlet and her husband, Don, had long dreamed of opening a clothing boutique. They even had a name: Barlow, after a boat they’d sailed on in the British Virgin Islands.
In 2019, they started work on the store. But instead of opening a brick-and-mortar, they decided to take a risk on a different concept.
“I’d been following similar (fashion) trucks out of Dallas, but I hadn’t seen anything like them here in Baton Rouge,” Charlet says. “I thought: How fun would it be to be able to bring a boutique to a high school on a Friday afternoon, so the teachers can shop on their breaks? Or to a hospital, where staff might normally get off work too late to shop at a store? We could bring it to different neighborhoods or parties and make shopping into more of an experience.”
The Charlets originally planned to build Barlow inside an old airstream, but the ceilings turned out to be too low and the space too cramped.
Instead, they built a trailer from scratch. Don sketched to-scale drawings and worked with fabricators to build the shop’s body and interior cabinetry. The process took nearly a year, but the boutique was finally ready to open by April 2020.
Barlow’s home base is St. Francisville, parked outside of Corbel, the custom interiors and furniture studio the Charlets own. Eventually, the Charlets plan to build a mixed-use development in downtown St. Francisville, which will also be home to a Barlow brick-and-mortar.
In the meantime, the boutique will continue venturing all over the Capital Region and beyond.
Opening in the midst of the pandemic derailed some of Barlow’s early travel plans, but it finally hit the road to the Round Top Antiques Show last fall and this past spring.
Sitting in the open fields of rural Texas, leisurely sipping margaritas at 4 p.m., the Charlets met people from all over the world—and plenty of visiting Louisianans, too. Next, they’ll drive to Nashville for a summer pop-up. More road trips are sure to come.
It’s just what the Charlets dreamed of when deciding to open a mobile shop.
“We can take it anywhere,” Charlet says.
To learn more about Baton Rouge boutiques on the go, keep reading the full story from the August 2021 issue of 225.
For more on Barlow boutique, check out this story from the inRegister archives.