Many would recoil at the idea of opening a boutique in Denver in the middle of a pandemic, but for Dana Ford-Buerger, this was just another roadblock for her to overcome. A black woman and mother of two, Ford-Buerger isn’t unfamiliar to life’s challenges.
“I knew eventually someday, somehow I would try to own my store,” Ford-Buerger says. “I didn’t know when it was going to happen but I knew that someday it would happen.”
And on June 5, her dream came true. Her newest baby, as she calls it, is her weeks-old fashion boutique, Lariat. Located in Berkeley—one of Denver’s fastest-growing neighborhoods—Lariat is the manifestation of Ford-Buerger’s unconditional love for fashion, her evolving bohemian style, and a place for her to connect with the local community.
“I just wanted to create a beautiful space that I love, with things that I love, based on my style,” Ford-Buerger says. And she did just that.
A California native, Ford-Buerger lived in New York for 13 years where she worked as a buyer for W Hotels. There, she established her fashion career. While on vacation, she met her husband, a Coloradan, and moved to Denver eight years ago. For the last four years, Ford-Buerger has been a stay-at-home mom, finalizing her dreams to open an upscale fashion boutique on Tennyson Street.
“The funny thing is,” Ford-Buerger says, “I was supposed to open the store last year…and then I got pregnant with Phoenix…I had to put it off one year which was a blessing in disguise.” Because of her difficult pregnancy, she postponed opening Lariat until the time was right—which would have been this spring—then the novel coronavirus happened.
“So my husband said, ‘This is going to be the best time to open. Do not worry, you got this,’” Ford-Buerger says. “I trusted the process. It gave me time to take my time in the store. And I did everything in the store with my baby on my back.”
From the store’s decor to the brands, everything inside Lariat is handpicked and cherished by Ford-Buerger. The shop features comfortable brands like Free People Movement and bohemian designs from Spell and Gypsy Collectibve and Second Karma. Ford-Buerger also sells bath and body care products from local brands like Moon Bath and Fig and Yarrow.
“I wanted my store to be like the way I shop. I love to splurge, and I have no problem spending all the little money I’ve saved up for a Fendi bag but I refuse to spend $100 on denim,” she says. In addition, Ford-Buerger wanted her brands to resonate with the women shopping in her store looking to blend style and comfort.
“I need to be functional. I need fabric that breathes and I need pants, denim, and skirts that don’t ride up,” she says. “It’s not so much about looking great, it’s about feeling great more than anything right now.”
In addition, Ford-Buerger wants her customers to feel relaxed and welcome in her store—something she hasn’t always experienced while shopping herself.
“When I think of whoever is shopping in my shop, I want them to feel like they’re making a friend. I want them to think they can stop in and talk…. I really want it to be a beautiful, safe space,” she says.
And as a woman of color with biracial children, having a safe space is very important to Ford-Buerger. When she first moved to Denver, she was shocked by the lack of diversity in the Mile High City.
“I definitely feel like I was the only one and that was really hard for me. I really struggled to make friends and to find a community,” she says. “It was really difficult.”
Now, a few years down the road, Ford-Buerger feels like Denver is making positive strides to become more diverse and welcoming for people of color.
“I do feel like it’s getting better,” she says.
For Ford-Buerger, the store is a way for her to establish a community and connect with other mothers and women of color.
“This is kind of an outlet for me to say ‘Hey! I’m here!!! Come visit me, Come see me. We can do this.’” she says. “Women of color are making major moves. I want to show them that this can be done.”
Ford-Buerger launched the online version of Lariat last Sunday and received over two dozen online orders within the first few days, speaking to the support she already feels. And although she wasn’t able to throw the grand opening party she dreamed up for her store, she’s more than thrilled that the local community has been so supportive during this time.
“It’s been a long time in the making and I’m finally happy that it’s happening and I’m so excited that the Berkeley community has supported me so much,” she says. “I think that it’s during a time when we want to uplift people of color. This is a great time to do that…So it’s finally amazing for us to get the recognition that we deserve.”
Lariat is located at 4258 Tennyson Street Denver. The store is open everyday with required social-distancing procedures. shoplariat.com