By Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Sandra Bilau has been the proud owner of Whitecourt Workwear and Ladies Boutique for roughly eight years. She previously worked at the store for fifteen years before buying it. “I wanted to buy my job because I loved it,” smiled Bilau. Located in downtown Whitecourt, at 5107 50 Street beside CIBC, the long-time store has changed a lot over the years, and one significant change is the addition of ladies’ wear. Little did she know how important that addition would become years later.

“I started with just a little bit of women’s clothing near the front of the store, and now it’s taken over half the store,” chuckled Bilau. Before the addition, her primary support came through the oilfield. “The ladies’ wear saved me because the oilfield died there for a while and is still hurting. If I hadn’t had the ladies’ wear in the store, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. It’s a bit funny how that goes. Women still worked in the banks, or offices or hair salons, and they still need to dress up a little bit.”

When she first decided to try a line of women’s clothes and see the response from local shoppers, Bilau said the idea came from her own experience of trying to find clothes locally. “I knew for myself that I couldn’t buy clothes in town. I thought, why not try a little bit and see how it goes? I tried a few clothing lines, and it went over really well, so I brought in more and then I brought in more and more,” she laughed. “It snowballed from there.”

One thing that Bilau said still surprises her is when customers walk in, shocked. “I still hear from people that they’ve never heard of us or didn’t know we were down here. They’ve lived in Whitecourt for ten years and didn’t know we existed. People, sometimes, don’t think just to come downtown to see what’s here. Let alone not knowing about the ladies’ wear, but some people don’t even know I exist at all. We still get new customers who find us for the first time.”

This item is reprinted with permission from the Whitecourt, AB, Whitecourt Press. For the complete article, click HERE

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