VALPARAISO — Tucked in a cozy shop on Washington Street, Bangles owner Paulette Domke surrounded herself with colorful clothes for 20 years.
Once, a little girl walked in the store and said it was magical. Domke liked that, and calls her shop "a magical closet."
“It’s nice being your own boss,” Domke said. “But retail is hard, it’s up and down. People go out of business all the time. But I’ve been here 20 years and I think a lot of it is just being kind to people and being nice to people and listening to them and their stories.”
In 1989, the original Bangles was going to close but Domke bought it. She continued working at her job in advertising while working at Bangles for five years, before it became too much for her to continue. She closed Bangles, but when she lost her job of 18 years, she reopened the store.
“Anyone can open a store, but you've got to have some kind of thought process in how to do it, what people are looking for, what looks good on people,” Domke said.
Domke says her style is “more gypsy, more carefree” and it’s not for everybody. She says she has to sell a little bit of everything and also keep up with the trends.
Domke recently hosted a private anniversary event as a "thank you" to her loyal customers. Some of her customers have been coming in for 10 or more years.
“I’ve got the best customers in the world,” Domke said. “They support me, so nice. They’re helpful, they’re kind. When there’s an event going on, they all offer to come and help.”
Bangles has been located at 7 Washington St. for 10 years. Prior to that, it was nestled between Insights and the Designer's Club in downtown Valparaiso, according to a 1998 Times story.
“It’s been good,” Domke said. “I love what I do and the people I met are amazing.”
She said that even with online sales, she thinks people still want to come into stores like hers.
“People still want to come in and talk, and they want to touch and feel,” Domke said.
Of her biggest challenges, Domke was quick to say it is the weather.
“When it's beautiful and sunny out, business is good and everybody’s happy,” Domke said. “But the weather is bad … no one comes in.”
In the 1998 Times story, published when Bangles reopened, the reporter wrote, "If the number of shoppers looking in the window or stopping by is any indication, Domke will do very well."
Twenty years seems to be a great indication that Bangles is a downtown Valparaiso staple. And Domke's plans for the next 20 years?
“I’ll take one year at a time,” she said.