When she decided to start her own business, Marissa Zimmerman made a discovery.
“It’s amazing what you can do with an old U-Haul truck,” she said.
The Carroll Township resident painted one pink and made it into what she now calls Whimsical Wardrobe Boutique.
“I wanted to take the idea of a food truck and just turn it into a fashion truck,” she said, “basically a closet on wheels.”
For close to a decade, Zimmerman has driven the truck to all kinds of events, from fundraisers and outdoor markets to bachelorette parties and girls’ nights out.
She came up with the idea while studying retail management and marketing at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
“We had to work on a project combining our major with our hobbies, and I like to tell people that was my ‘light-bulb’ moment,” she said. “I was always in retail and interested in fashion, and I’ve always enjoyed traveling. And I just kind of thought, what if I brought a store to where people already are?”
A look online revealed some women had caught on to the same concept in California, but not around Pittsburgh.
“I was just so passionate about it,” Zimmerman said. “I couldn’t wait to do the business plan, couldn’t wait to graduate. I had already found the truck before I graduated and legally formed the business.”
The original name was the Vintage Valet, and she decided to change it early last year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, she has had relatively few opportunities to get out and introduce customers to Whimsical Wardrobe Boutique.
“When you’re in that kind of business, you rely on events and people getting together,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, everybody has to do things online. And it’s just not the same.”
Although she does sell through her website, Zimmerman is looking forward to greeting people in person more often. She is scheduled to be at the Bethel Park Farmers Market the first Tuesday of every month and to participate in the Saturday Night Market in downtown Pittsburgh.
Closer to home, she plans to be present for her ninth year at Fleatique on the Mon, the three-mile-long street sale in Monongahela. The annual event resumes June 5.
A graduate of South Allegheny High School, Zimmerman said she used to play at owning a store when she was a youngster with an early interest in the types of clothing and accessories she now sells.
“There are so many different options in the fashion industry,” she said. “I just never thought that entrepreneurship would be one of them.”