By Deborah Brancic, Globe Correspondent
Posted May 28, 2013 12:34 PM
On a warm, clear recent evening, 10 models walked the red carpet on Spring Street in West Roxbury, in front of the shops at Fairview Corner. The second “Fashion Mob” event drew more than 150 people to the cluster of women-owned stores, while also raising money for the upcoming Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon to support cancer research and treatment.
“We were talking about how do we draw some attention to ourselves, and we’re like, ‘Let’s just have a fashion show right out on the sidewalk,'” said Elizabeth Hoenscheid, the owner of Top It Off.
“We just thought it would be a great idea to do something out front,” added Marika Gaurenszky, owner of Fabutique.
Shirley Walsh, owner of Kalembar Dune, said the stores plan to donate to a different charity each time they hold a Fashion Mob event. Donations were collected through raffles of prizes, which came from businesses in the area.
At the first event in November, the organizers donated proceeds to the Roslindale Food Bank. This year, BakerBaker co-owner Beth McNichols said, the event raised about $350 for the Pan-Mass Challenge, which benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The idea was inspired by Frances Kolenik, a co-owner of the neighborhood shop BakerBaker, who is a cancer survivor and participates in the Pan-Mass Challenge.
In order to get the word out about the event, the shops used social media: Facebook, Twitter and email listserves. There was also a bit of old-fashioned footwork, according to Top It Off retail manager Ashley Boiardi.
“We reached out to some of the local schools” by dropping off fliers to send home. “One of our target customers is kind of like the ‘mom,’ so we thought that was a good way to reach out to all of them,” she said.
The marketing effort paid off: About 175 people showed up for the event, slightly more than in November, according to Boiardi.
Although this was the second time models have taken to the streets in West Roxbury, some shoppers were surprised. Sherri Quist of Roslindale, who works with Gaurenszky in real estate, said she expected this to be a ‘Girl’s Night Out,’ a Fabutique event organized every third Thursday of the month. “It’s weird to have a red carpet across the street from Tony’s Place,” she said.
Carol Dolan of West Roxbury said this was the second time she was attending. “This is a fun event. It is good to see everybody in town,” she said. “I am going away with a bunch of friends this weekend, so I’m going to buy something to wear.”
Shopping local is something the event has had success in promoting, according to Hoenscheid. “People have come in because they said they drove by and they see all these people, and they just wanted to see what’s going on. It definitely has really drummed up business,” she said.
Walsh said there was something special about the fact that all the shops on her block were run by women. “The whole synergy of all the shops here at Fairview Corner is that spin of it all being all-women business owners, which is really neat,” she said. “We understand that it’s really important to provide fun events like this for people to attend.”
The models were more than happy to participate. “They are friends and customers, and most of them are women from West Roxbury and also women from Framingham State,” said Hoenscheid.
Julia Paoletti, one of the models, said she was proud to be part of the show. “It’s nice that they’re small stores, and they’re doing something bigger,” she said.
Erica LeClair, who had attended the event as a shopper in November, returned this time as a model. “It’s cool that it’s right on a main road so people can (see it) as they’re driving by,” she said.
A highlight of the night was when Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley walked the catwalk, wearing a sequined apron and carrying a blueberry pie from BakerBaker. O’Malley said he was recruited to join the event via Twitter. “I’m here because I support our small businesses. This area is very impressive — it is all women-owned,” he said.
Many local businesses also contributed to the event. Elio Imbornone, owner of Tony’s Place, donated food to the cause. “I’m good to my neighbors,” he said. “Be good to your neighbors, because you never know when you need them.”
Food and drinks also were donated by Blanchards Liquors, DeNo’s Pizza, Masona Grill, Lola’s Natick, and West on Centre. Raffle prizes included gift cards from Porter Cafe, Subway, Los Amigos, Sugar and Fabutique, an outfit from Top It Off, a goodie basket from BakerBaker, a champagne brunch at West on Centre, spa services from the Dedham Day Spa, American Skincare, Winnie’s and FeitheOg Massage Therapy, and a necklace and earrings from WashRWare.
BakerBaker is continuing to raise money for Pan-Mass through May by selling pies, which cost $25 each and come on a glass plate, Kolenik said.