CASPER, Wyo. — When Dawn Stevenson took over in 1974, Fashion Crossroads in downtown Casper was one of 840 franchise stores.
It’s now the only one left in the country.
Originally Mode O’ Day, the store rebranded in the 80s as Fashion Crossroads to appear more contemporary, according to Stevenson.
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When the company went bankrupt in the middle 1990s, she quietly bought the store and brand and carried on.
“Casper didn’t even know what happened,” she recalls.
It’s just one of the many ways Stevenson’s store has survived enormous change in retail over the decades.
When the Eastridge Mall opened in 1982, she was an early member of what is now the Downtown Development Authority.
“That had a whole lot to do with downtown surviving,” said Dawn.
“We’ve never had nailed up and broken windows…and that wasn’t just good luck, it was a lot of business people working really hard to keep downtown viable.”
She also gives credit to the City of Casper, for investing in beautification projects in downtown’s core.
Dawn now runs the store with her daughter Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, who has become an equal business partner.
Over the years, Fashion Crossroads expanded in their original building at 228 E. Second Street, and again next door with the FC Outlet bargain store in what was originally the Tribune building. Last year they launched an online store.
They own both buildings and live in different apartments upstairs.
The challenges are still plenty. A number of retail stores have closed in Casper over the past two years.
However, Kyleen and Dawn feel like they’re poised to benefit from downtown’s growing reputation as a destination.
“We saw a 40 percent increase in foot traffic just last week,” said Kyleen.
The two believe younger families are looking for a downtown experience that includes entertainment and retail.
“We’re seeing that this younger generation are responding to live music and events they can bring their kids to,” said Kyleen.
Fashion Crossroads has responded to that energy with events such as trunk sales and fashion shows.
They’ve also invested in clothing lines that aren’t available online, which attract regular customers from well past Casper’s borders.
“The stores that aren’t innovating are closing their doors,” said Kyleen.
Fashion Crossroads was recently honored with the 2019 Small Business of Wyoming Award for their decades of community involvement. They’re receiving the award at 11 a.m. on Saturday during their 45th anniversary sale.
While digital retail has changed the shopping experience around the country, Dawn and Kyleen still believe there will always be a market for stores.
“Everything that I’m hearing says this upcoming generation is actually craving the more personalized experience that you get from a brick and mortar business and they’re gravitating towards that,” said Kyleen.
“I think there will always be room for downtowns,” said Dawn. “Your downtown is the heart of your city.”