ELLSWORTH — It’s a Thursday in December and Amanda Beals, owner of the recently opened Poppy & Polka Dot Boutique at 61 Main St., is sitting on her basement floor wearing a blue sweater, black leggings and a walking boot to help manage the pain in her foot.
It’s 8 p.m., and Beals is about to go “live” on Facebook, to show her clients the new shipment of jeans she got in this week.
“The jeans are a high-waist, high-waist — Hello!” Beals interrupts herself to welcome a new client who has joined the chat, then resumes.
“Uh, sorry you guys. High-waisted skinny, but they are dark denim, so definitely set your denim if you haven’t set your denim you should.”
This is her second live video of the evening and much shorter (a little less than three minutes) just to show off the jeans she forgot to show in the earlier, hour-long live video.
Beals, who taught middle and high school math in Hancock for six years, had been selling clothes out of her boutique basement for the past three years before moving into the Main Street space this fall.
“It just blossomed,” said Beals, of her side gig that grew into a business. “It was a huge blessing to our family.”
The California native describes her shop as “kind of like Target.” She buys a limited number of items from a variety of sellers on a regular basis, sometimes getting several shipments in each week.
When she gets a new piece, Beals wears it around for awhile, figuring out the fit and sizing. Then she pops onto Facebook and hits the live button.
Because she has a limited, rotating inventory, each piece is numbered. Clients watching live can claim a piece by size and number; Beals also will often act as a personal shopper.
“They’ll say, ‘I need an outfit for a baby shower,’ or for a father-daughter dance,” said Beals. “I’m all about body-positive image. My goal is always to find fashion that works for everybody.”
Although she no longer sells out of her basement, Beals still frequently goes live on Facebook and also caters to clients who are housebound, showing them new pieces via Facetime video chat, then sending the items off.
“My next goal is to have it closed-captioned. The hearing-impaired community is underserved.”
Buying just a few pieces at a time allows her to change up the inventory and special-order items that might be hard to find locally, such as cruisewear and bathing suits for those heading on vacation in midwinter.
“It’s quality versus quantity,” said Beals. “They love to see fresh. I just watch the market. It’s always changing, always evolving.”
Beals gets new boxes in between two and three times each week (she usually sells out) and does a live video weekly.
“It takes time and discipline on my end,” said Beals, “But I love doing it. It hasn’t ever really felt like a job.”
Beals also has a personal connection with her online and in-person clients, many of whom have become friends.
“They’re genuine about their concern for my family,” she said.
That’s clear watching the comments pour in on her videos. Beals answers most of them mid-video:
“My daughter goes to school there too!” she says excitedly to one viewer commenting on the post.
“Oh good, OK, kids are in bed,” to another.
Watchers share her triumphs (“These last few weeks I’ve definitely been a mom and a super wife”), give advice on lighting (“This is a learning experience for all of us,” said Beals one night, turning down an overhead light. “Is that better?”), chat about health problems, kids, the weather, and, of course, clothes.
“I never thought I’d be my own boss,” said Beals. “I’ve created a life I’ve only ever dreamed of.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/poppyandpolkadotboutique or poppyandpolkadot.com. Winter hours for Poppy & Polka Dot Boutique are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.