FORT WORTH, Texas — On a recent balmy spring day, with winds stronger than any hairspray could resist, a half-ton pickup truck hauling a 25-foot-long Airstream trailer wrapped in teal pulls up in front of my friend Melanie’s house in Denton, Texas, just missing the mailbox.
Out from the truck bounces a pair of blondes, Rosie Vann-Dalton, 38, and Sande Brandt, 46, the creators of Couture in a Can, the 1-year-old boutique on wheels that, with an appointment and a $250 deposit (a credit toward a purchase), will show up anywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, seven days a week.
Wearing 4-inch Carlos Santana heels, skinny black jeans (Hudson) and a puffy cream-colored blouse (Hazel) with a fringy T-shirt “scarf” (Easley) draped around her neck, Vann-Dalton unfurls the hot-pink carpet along the sidewalk, while her brother, Dallas Vann, the sometimes driver of “the Can” (Sande’s husband, Andy Brandt, also drives), pushes two metal flamingos into the grass, just to the left of the trailer’s door. Inside the trailer, Sande Brandt punches up a Blake Shelton song.
Now the shopping can begin.
A little over a year ago, Vann-Dalton and Brandt were both working at White House/Black Market in Southlake, Texas, when Sande let it slip that what she really wanted to do was to have her own store. Later that day, Vann-Dalton sent her a text: “Are you serious?”
She was. The pair immediately started looking for retail space in the Southlake area, something small that would work as a boutique. But they couldn’t find anything. Frustrated, one afternoon while drinking coffee together in Brandt’s kitchen — which overlooked the back yard and Sande’s husband’s rarely used Airstream trailer — the light came on. Says Brandt, “That’s when it hit us — why not just take the store to them?”
Think food truck, but with fashion instead of falafel.
Brandt persuaded her husband, who works in retail construction, to tear out the trailer’s insides and retrofit it with all the basics needed for a boutique — a dressing room for two, a seat, and plenty of rods and shelves to hold as many as 25 lines of separates, dresses, T-shirts and two lines of denim. Six weeks and a $20,000 investment later, Couture in a Can hit the road and started racking up the miles — and the profits, which came after a mere six months.
“We knew we had a strong partnership, a unique concept and a handful of ladies that would trust us to try this new way to shop,” says Vann-Dalton, who adds that neither of them is really surprised that they’ve done so well. “They are the reason we have been able to grow and be successful so quickly.”