Fashion-forward entrepreneur

Wichita native buys beloved store, opens new one

Written by Amy Palser | Photography by Michael Carroll

During the 28 years that Allison Baker spent away from her hometown of Wichita living in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, she always made a point to visit Aspen Boutique when she was back home. The famed College Hill store never failed to deliver an eclectic yet refined selection of clothing, shoes, purses and — Baker’s personal favorite item — jewelry.

“There are a lot of people who, when they come to town, Aspen is a favorite for them,” said Baker, who definitely counts herself among that group. The stars seemed to align when Baker found herself moving back to ICT to be close to family — and not long after, the upscale boutique’s original owners, James and Monica Smits, decided to sell the store after 34 years.

So Baker made a major life turn and bought her favorite Wichita shop. “I left my job in the corporate world to do something different,” said the new store owner, who studied real estate and construction management at the University of Denver and worked for Deloitte, Apple and Sun Microsystems. “I’m truly thrilled to be in the retail space. You get to tap more into a creative side, and it’s satisfying to help women find something they feel good in. I’m really enjoying it.”

Aspen Boutique’s 4,000-plus square feet of retail space features wardrobe staples as well as unique signature pieces, and all the accessories to make a complete outfit: clutches and bags, necklaces and earrings, shoes and boots. It also features high-end home goods such as candles, towels and baskets. Baker has added a collection of fine estate jewelry, too, with pieces that range in price from $7 to $100,000.

Since purchasing the store in April, Baker has retained the fashion labels popular with longtime clientele, and she added 30 new brands. Shoppers will be happy to find the boho-chic Johnny Was, upscale wardrobe staples from Sympli, the iconic and timeless Joseph Ribkoff, artistic pieces from Caite, James Perse fine basics, and trendy Liverpool denim.

But Aspen Boutique is just the beginning for this fashion-forward entrepreneur. Baker just opened another store in September, The Vault Collection, featuring curated furnishings and housewares that she has gathered from over 125 exclusive estate auctions spanning the globe. The store is located across the street from Aspen Boutique in Lincoln Heights, Wichita’s oldest shopping center. “Given the period and estate vibe and antique furnishings in the store, it’s a good fit,” Baker said.

The unique furnishings and housewares feature modern, art nouveau, Victorian and mid-century modern pieces. Baker said she had already been pulling together inventory to open The Vault Collection before Aspen Boutique went on the market. But the two stores seem to go hand-in-hand. “I just love the character and history that comes with things that have some age on them,” she said.

Where to find them

Aspen Boutique
4724 E. Douglas Ave.
Shop on Facebook and Instagram:
Store hours:
10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Friday
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday

The Vault Collection
4737 E. Douglas Ave.
Shop on Facebook and Instagram:
Store hours:
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursday and Friday
10 a.m. –3 p.m. Saturday
By appointment Tuesday and Wednesday

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