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Merchant finds formula for riding in style

Vivian Garner designs feminine road apparel


OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Vivian Garner pauses for a break outside of her new Chic Rider Designs boutique on Northeast Hogan Drive. She also owns the Paws A While pet grooming spa nearby. Local businesswoman Vivian Garner likes to ride her motorcycle with a personalized style and fashion sense — one that’s more delicate and feminine than ostentatious and raunchy.

“It took me approximately eight years to build a wardrobe that was still feminine instead of ‘biker chick,’” she explains. “I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I started making things myself.

“Instead of being a biker chick, a lot of us want to be a lady rider,” she adds. “You can look like a woman and ride a motorcycle.”

Garner, who’s owned and operated the Paws A While dog spa on Hogan Avenue for years, took her ambition to the next level in April, when she opened Chic Rider Designs in a vacant building at 1119 N.E. Hogan Drive at Division Street.

The cozy, painstakingly arranged boutique features clothing and accessories that Garner, a Troutdale resident, designs in her upstairs workshop along with items by jewelry and clothing designers she admires, such as earring-maker Sonia Lub and wallet and gun holster craftsman Joseph Kennedy.

Emphasizing Garner’s philosophy of selling “feminine and affordable” merchandise, the shop offers purses for $59 that she says retail for $70, bracelets for $34 that “would be $65 to $75,” necklaces in the $18 to $22 range, and shirts with Garner’s design embellishments for $35. At Chic Rider Designs’ higher end, textile riding jackets sell for $120, with embroidered leather jackets ranging from $190 to $249.

When asked if she has retail competition around the Portland area, Garner quickly replies, “There’s not a store like this in the country,” despite there being “way more lady riders than ‘biker chicks.’”

As a merchant as well as cyclist, Garner empathizes with larger women who struggle to find riding clothes that fit them.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear is women of larger sizes have to wear men’s sizes and men’s gear,” she says. “I actually carry (women’s) sizes in stock.”

The appeal of the store’s offerings, Garner emphasizes, transcend two-wheeler passions.

“You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to find something you like. Jewelry is universal, scarves are universal, purses and apparel are universal.”

The 57-year old makes a point of supporting the American economy in the most direct way she knows.

“I’m trying for all ‘Made in U.S.A.,’ hand made or fair trade (merchandise). I love my country,” she explains, adding, “I can only do my part.”OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - The sign at Chic Rider Designs introduces customers to a different kind of Gresham-area boutique: one that brings a stylish, feminine element to motorcycle riding fashions.

Although still happy with her grooming business just down the road, Garner is content to let her employees there handle the physically taxing client load while she concentrates on her new retail adventure.

“This is a fulfillment of my dream,” she says of the store. “I’ve always needed a creative outlet. For (pet) grooming, the average life span is about 25 years. I made it 38.”

Pleased with her location on the always-bustling Hogan Road and the drop-in business she gets from customers of Hems in a Hurry and Ain’t Ms B Haven next door, Garner describes 2015 as a renaissance period for her and her ambitions.

“I was born in 1957, and I am 57,” she explains. “So I think this is my year to do something special.”

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