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The Black Scintilla: ‘Experiential’ shopping with a personal touch
The Black Scintilla, a women’s boutique at 1112 N. Walker Ave., might be Ground Zero in Oklahoma City’s Midtown district for an emerging retailing concept known as “experiential” shopping.
Peer through the shop’s front window design, and what comes into focus? Racks of stylish, colorful women’s clothing.
But look more closely. You just might see a group of 15 or more women gathered around tables loaded with cookies. They are participating in a cookie decorating class regularly hosted in the small shop.
Or you might see instead a row of sewing machines set up the middle of the shop. It’s a sewing class conducted by The Black Scintilla owner Rachael Gruntmeir for anyone wanting to acquire new sewing skills.
Step inside for a shopping experience that is personal and, well, experiential. The Black Scintilla offers cookie decorating or sewing classes on a regular once-a-month schedule.
“It’s all about experiences,” Gruntmeir said. “Millennials are coming in and are the new shoppers that are now more focused on experiences. They are wanting to make connections and wanting to shop local. The classes sell out every single time.”
Rachael Gruntmeir is an Enid, Okla., native who earned degrees at both Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. Then she moved out of state, eventually opening her own shop in Las Vegas.
But after three years, she decided to return to Oklahoma, where the concept of “shop local” is embraced to support local merchants who spring up in our communities. She was drawn to Oklahoma City’s Midtown district, which was beginning to have a flourishing community of locally owned retailers.
“I drove through Midtown and said ‘this is where I’m going to be,” she said.
After looking at just three possible locations, she picked a small site – approximately 1,200 square feet -- in the heart of Midtown across the street from Brown’s Bakery.
Black Scintilla opened in 2015, offering affordable fashion in sizes that range from small to 3XL. The name implies that it brings a spark of innovation to retailing.
“Our sizing is what makes us unique,” Gruntmeir said. “I have to remind myself to promote that because that’s so unexpected in a store. Most boutiques that women walk into, only expect to find sizes from 2 to 4 and here, that is not the case at all.”
There is also an aura of edgy fun to the boutique. Near the front door is a revolving racks of colorful socks for both men and women, many of which are decorated with slogans that, shall we say, are of the NSFW variety.
And if a man accompanies a woman into the store, Gruntmeir has him covered.
“For the guys who come in and are patiently waiting, I offer them a local IPA,” she said. “I sit them down by the socks and the funny coasters and say ‘here’s a beer. Hang out. They end up having a great time.”
So, who are the Black Scintilla’s customers and why have they found their way into her shop?
“My target demographic is women around the ages of 30 to 50,” Gruntmeir said. “I really do try to focus on affordable quality clothing while offering free hemming alterations.”
The proprietor of the Black Scintilla and her “shop girls” go out of their way to get to know and remember their customers individually. There are birthday emails, VIP lists and even champagne for shoppers.
Gruntmeir will literally go the extra mile for customers, delivering altered clothing to their homes, hotels, or offices when they are on a tight schedule.
“If they are in a hurry or have a crying baby, we’ve got you covered,” she said. “We’ll entertain the kiddos with crayons and a coloring book and complete the free hemming alterations while you peruse the shop.”
Gruntmeir has put her OSU marketing degree to work in other ways that bring attention to the shop among her desired demographic shoppers.
While the Black Scintilla connects with customers through its website at blackscintilla.com, it also has an active presence on social media, especially the Instagram platform.
Gruntmeir enthusiastically tackles social media venues with a type of guerilla marketing that showcases the boutique’s merchandise along with an effective call to action.
“It’s extremely popular,” she said of the Black Scintilla’s social media presence that also includes Facebook and Twitter. “It never ceases to amaze me that I can post one picture of an item and people will come in three or four times that day to purchase the item posted.”
Since the opening of the Black Scintilla just over three years ago, Gruntmeir has actively promoted the Midtown shopping district. She serves on the Midtown board and makes it her mission to get to know her fellow retailers in the area.
“That’s my passion, supporting my neighbors,” she said. “I never in an instant worried about my business failing or not succeeding here; I knew it would succeed because that’s what Oklahomans do, we support one another.”
On the horizon for the Black Scintilla is an expansion that will double the number of dressing rooms available from the current two while also adding more floor space to the shop.
As she described the potential of the added dressing rooms to solve the boutique’s bottleneck on busy days, Gruntmeir’s face lit up at the thought of something else that’s new at her shop.
On a recent buying trip to Los Angeles, she discovered a company that manufactures longer pants, which is a big deal to many of The Black Scintilla’s customers.
“I’m excited to dress my taller girls,” she said. “I keep a list of tall girls, and now I can call and tell them, ‘come in and bring your heels because we’ve got you covered.”
That is both a personal and unexpected shopping experience for Black Scintilla customers.
“We truly care about our customers,” Gruntmeir said.