By Taylor Villanueva
Signal staff writer
You might have seen it around the SCV: a white-and-pink truck decorated with pink-and-orange flowers.
But it’s not making deliveries. The meandering fashion truck is newer, growing brand of retail: a boutique on wheels.
Freehand Boutique has been around since 2015, when its two owners, Rhiannon Sandoval and Erin Merrick, decided to “do something creative.”
The store is welcoming, a small ramp entrance with racks of clothes lining the outside, inviting the shopper in to browse.
There are even more clothes inside, along with accessories, like hats or clutches.
The shop looks like a traditional store once the customer is inside.
There’s even a changing room near the front of the truck.
“I kind of always knew I wanted to start some sort of business,” said Sandoval.
Before opening up the wandering fashion truck for business, Sandoval was working at a mortgage company, and Merrick was an assistant site supervisor at an elementary school.
But they always dreamed about using their creative skills to do something different and work together.
“Erin always had a passion for clothing and style, so we combined forces with what we were good at,” she said.
The two started with pop-up shops in 2014, until they decided on creating their own mobile boutique, instead of going the brick-and-mortar route.
“Prices to rent are crazy and this idea popped up. We found a truck and got it on the road.”
This isn’t the only fashion and clothing store going mobile: Los Angeles is home to several mobile shops, including Wear on Wheels.
“I had been in the fashion business for over 20 years,” said Wear on Wheels owner Maryana Chervets. “I did personal styling, merchandising — all aspects you can think of.”
Chervets designed the mobile boutique herself, after deciding a truck would be a more viable option than a traditional retail store.
“It looks like a food truck but you put out a stair and enter from the back,” Chervets said. “It becomes a boutique feel, almost a wardrobe.”
A lot of fashion trucks face similar problems some food truck owners face, such as parking and permitting issues, with Chervets noting she needed what’s called a “peddler’s permit.”
Chervets also said unlike food trucks, fashion trucks can’t park anywhere along the curb.
There are specific places they are allowed to park because of liability issues.
Despite the problems that can come up, the fashion truck community is tight-knit.
“All of us in the fashion truck world are kind of buddies,” said Sandoval. “We’ve done events with a bunch of other trucks.”
Sandoval and Merrick said they were happy to bring their idea to life, but starting their business wasn’t always exciting.
The co-owners faced tragedy when, in 2015, their first truck caught flames while they were driving on the freeway.
“It was terrifying,” said Sandoval. “We lost control of the steering and brakes. It was literally watching your dream burn up in front of your face.”
They were able to jump out and call 911 as the truck was sparking, but within minutes their mobile shop was engulfed in flames.
This didn’t stop them.
“We got a lot of outpouring of support from the community,” Sandoval said. Merrick’s sister started a GoFundMe page, and the women were able to open a new boutique. “We got so many messages and words of encouragement from friends, people we didn’t know, and other boutiques.”
Now that their new truck has been running, the women are able to enjoy their hard work.
“We’ll drive on the freeway and everyone will be looking, like ‘What’s inside of there?’” Sandoval said. “It’s so nice to hear people like what you worked so hard for.”
Shoppers can book the wandering fashion truck by going to the company’s website. Follow Freehand Boutique’s Instagram to see where in Santa Clarita they will be next.