An OSU Graduate Launches a Boutique in the Short North

Ellen Shirk was an architecture major at Ohio State University, taking courses in fashion design for fun, when she became intrigued with owning a fashion business of her own. She and two sorority sisters convinced OSU fashion professors Wendy Goldstein and Alexandra Suer to provide them with a single-credit, independent study course about establishing an online business. They called it Vamp Official.

By the time Shirk graduated from Ohio State in May 2016, she landed a job with Shremshock Architects in New Albany—which does a lot of retail and business design—and launched the online fashion store that she and her friends had created. (Her two friends were entering graduate programs in ophthalmology and pharmacy, so Shirk went solo in starting the business.)

“It really started out super small and as a hobby,” she says. In addition to the online store, she spent the year going to Downtown's various markets, toting a tent for pop-up shops when the opportunity arose.

As she drove home from her New Albany job at Shremshock to the Brewery District each day, she eyed potential retail sites in the Short North. By July 15 of last year, Shirk was in a one-year contract for a retail space at 997 N. High St. and quit her day job. She designed the store's interior and, with the help of her family, had readied it for opening with one rack of clothing and some sunglasses. Eventually it was well-stocked with trendy pieces for young professional women “at accessible price points,” she says.

By the time January rolled around, Shirk was adding employees so that she could take off an occasional Saturday and work more on social media marketing and buying products. “I love being in the store…,” she adds. “Retail is hard work.”

Vamp Official's style focuses on “statement pieces” in neutral shades often purchased because a customer needs it for that night or the following weekend. Even though mustard yellow and pops of red are trendy, “people are really into neutrals,” says Shirk.