In a boutique lined with bold, colorful garments, a spunky Shih Tzu lounges by the window, waiting for customers. "She has to sit at the front door, right where people walk in," says Cassie Bienvenu, who owns the dog and the boutique, Candy Apple (701 Metairie Road, Suite 18105, Metairie, 504-304-8840; www.facebook.com/shopcandyapple).
Candy Apple is a fashion and accessories shop created by sisters Candace and Cassie Bienvenu. The women always wanted to open a store together, and the time was finally right two years ago. Both had returned to New Orleans after spending time away, Cassie in Chicago and Candace in New York. Candace studied fashion merchandising and designed jewelry in college. That was the beginning of the sisters' venture.
"I was going to sell my jewelry and we were going to blog about our favorite things," Candace says.
Using only social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram (@shopcandyapplenola), the sisters began holding flash sales on other items as well.
"We started selling purses and clothing and it would sell out in literally five minutes," Cassie says.
The Bienvenus held pop-up shops throughout Louisiana, usually for three hours at a time, where all items cost less than $60. "We'd have 200 people come out," Candace says.
After about a year of online flash sales and pop-up shops, the duo opened a permanent store last September.
Callie, who was a gift to Cassie on her 16th birthday, is a family dog. When Cassie went to college in Chicago, the dog stayed with Cassie's mom, Cathy. Even though she still lives with Cathy, Callie has sleepovers with Cassie and Candace at their respective homes and comes to work with them almost every day. Customers often mistake Callie, who is 11 years old, for a puppy.
"She's kind of had nine lives," Cassie says. "She almost died a couple times." Callie's near-death experiences include an autoimmune disease and a severe case of mange.
Callie loves the spotlight and posing for photos, but she's not the only star at the shop. The Bienvenu sisters have enjoyed a considerable amount of success recently. They were selected as honorees for this year's March of Dimes Spotlight on Success (www.marchofdimesnola.com), which highlights young professionals.
The sisters handle all aspects of the business themselves, including working in the shop together six days a week with no other employees. They work well together, often filling complementary roles: Candace prefers to style and photograph ensembles to post online, while Cassie enjoys modeling the garments. Working together has its challenges, but Cassie and Candace say they are able to overcome them because they are sisters.
"Let's just say, if we were best friends, we probably wouldn't be in business anymore," Cassie says. "We have our moments, but for the most part we know we can't do it without one another."