Owner: Michelle Bouma
Why Bellingham? “I love being able to walk down the street and say “Hi” to people. Everytime I think I’ve met everyone, I meet someone else. I also love the entrepreneurial spirit and the unique, local feel to downtown.”
Favorite shop downtown? “Ormolulu. Just the way they merchandise and display things is great.”
She’s painted hot pink. She’s wrapped in glitter vinyl that sparkles in the sun. She has racks of stylish clothes and a dressing room inside. She is Michelle Bouma's baby. “She” is Belle on Wheels and she’ll be coming out of hibernation at the Commercial Street Night Market tonight. You may know Michelle from her businesses Mi Shoes and Heroine, but have you seen her mobile clothing shop? March 25 will be your chance to check out what’s inside Belle.
Michelle opened Mi Shoes in 2005, but couldn’t sell clothes because of a non-compete clause. Four years ago, on a trip to get shoes for her shop, she decided to bring some clothes back. She started selling clothes off of a rack in her bedroom to friends and family. Next, she began taking the rack to friends’ places. Hoping to simplify lugging the clothes around, she remodeled a box truck her husband had, complete with clothing racks and a dressing room. She took the truck to the farmers market, Downtown Sounds and other pop ups.
As for a name, Michelle wanted something catchy that would make people understand her business is mobile. Her husband suggested Hell on Wheels, and Michelle came up with Belle on Wheels. Belle, as Michelle fondly calls her truck, is down your street or at your service. The mobility allows for Belle to go to private parties and events, or have people come to her. “I couldn’t tell you how fun it is,” Michelle said. “Imagine your ten best friends with wine and clothes and shopping.” Michelle and Belle are the perfect duo, and make for an intimate shopping experience or a fun party atmosphere.
Her clothing business gained momentum and people started asking where her store was. Eventually she found the small storefront on Commercial Street, which was perfect in size, space and price. Michelle decided to open Heroine Clothing, which has been a great success. For her shop, she envisioned a dark, sexy atmosphere, and wanted a name that was short, feminine, edgy and powerful.
The clothing in Belle and Heroine are different, but have the same style: feminine, fun, easy to wear and fashion forward with an edgy-urban feel. People ranging from teenagers to women in their 80s find clothes they love in Heroine and Belle. Michelle is a very tactile person, so everything she sells has a good feel to it. Price is also important when choosing clothes, as she wants people to be able to buy an affordable full outfit, or impulse buy without feeling guilty.
Michelle thrives on interacting with women through her businesses. She loves personalizing their shopping experiences, having conversations with new people and inspiring women of all ages. She aims to make women feel beautiful and great about themselves so that they walk out smiling and spread their happiness to others.
Belle has been to four out of the five Night Markets, and she certainly won’t disappoint this month. She’ll have spring dresses, cute tops, fun printed boho pants, cute short sets, playful pieces, cool basics with different cuts, new textures and patterns, and things no one in Bellingham has seen yet. During the Night Market, Heroine will also debut their spring video lookbook. Showing the feel and style of Heroine spring, the lookbook will be projected on the side of the building - don’t miss it! “Show up, get here, be here,” Michelle said. “There will be deals and different and new clothes.”
Find Belle at the Commercial Street Night Market and Heroine Clothing at 1328 Commercial St.