June De Wit | Staff writer
There’s an unusual short bus in town. The gray and pink bus is a travelling kids’ boutique named “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” The unique venture was started by Julie Van Oort with the help of her husband, Darin.
The traveling pop-up shop is something Julie always wanted to do and has had it in the works for a while. “I’ve always wanted to run my own business,” she said. “I’ve always loved retail and, as I had grandkids, I liked kids’ clothes.”
Darin and Julie shopped online for a while for a step-up truck, but couldn’t find one reasonably priced without a lot of miles, so they switched gears and started looking for a bus. They found the 1991 Thomas in Valparaiso, Nebraska, with only 22,000 miles on it. The owner used it as a family camper and earlier it was a bookmobile. Darin explained Julie can drive it without a special driver’s license endorsement because she doesn’t carry passengers.
Remodeling of the interior began last October right after they purchased the vehicle. The carpet was ripped out and replaced with a wood floor. The entire bus was repainted inside and out. The business logo, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Kids’ Fashion Mobile” was added outside. An exit door was specially-made with steps so customers could come in the front and leave safely out the back. “So there’s a flow to it,” Julie explained.
Julie relied heavily on Darin who performed the work she couldn’t. “He’s my right-hand guy. He’s been great through all of this.” But Darin wasn’t the only one helping. “I’ve had lots of help from my kids, and my grandkids are excited about it too.
“We thought it was going to take a couple months,” she said. But then she got hurt, and being on crutches for such a long time put plans on hold.
When the Rustic Railroad Market was held during Summerfest at B Fierce, Julie was contacted to join them. “But the bus wasn’t finished yet, so we hustled to get it ready. It gave us a boost to get it going,” she laughed. The market was her first appearance with the bus, since then she’s had a pop-up at her home. In October, she’s planning to attend a Sioux Falls Expo.
Julie’s bus is unique because it allows people to shop right out of it. She can drive it to each location for shows and doesn’t have to move merchandise or move displays. Hosts can have a pop-up shop open house without much work. There’s no need to clean house or even make food. “All they have to do is invite people and let them shop in the bus,” she said. Open houses are great for busy lifestyles and hostesses receive a discount.
Around the same time they purchased the bus, the former R & R Plumbing building on Main Street in Hull came up for sale. Since it was a great storefront location, the Van Oorts purchased it. They’re slowly remodeling, fixing up and painting the building. Julie hopes to have the store open within the next couple months.
About the only thing the outside of the building is missing is the sign identifying the business. But inside it’s still a work in progress. Eventually, the shop may be open on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings but Julie has nothing definite set.
The bus license plate explains Julie’s mission. “Psalm139” notes the Bible verse the business is named after. Psalm 139:14 is where “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” is referenced. She explained, “My biggest thing through this all is honoring the Lord. I want to do things fairly … (and) with integrity.”
The clothing she carries is brand-name merchandise from Baby Ganz, Talking Shirt, Bailey’s Blossom and Honey Dew. “I have some infant and then up to (sizes) 7 and 8,” Julie said. When the store is operational, she might add maternity clothes and baptism items. “It kind of goes hand-in-hand,” she explained.
People are excited to get the bus rolling. With so many kids in the area, Julie thinks her business will be good for the community and parents can benefit from the pop-up shop. For more information, check out her “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” Facebook page or Instagram account at jkvanoort.