For Dessie Mitcheson Pilek and Jen Zatko Atchison, their Vandergrift boutique is where best friends, entrepreneurship, and fashion sense come together.
Natives of Kiski Valley, Dessie Mitcheson Pilek and Jen Zatko Atchison met in high school and quickly formed what would become a lifelong bond. After graduating from Kiski Area High School in 2009, life took them in separate directions but they managed to maintain their long-distance friendship over the following years. Atchison stayed local and worked as an X-ray technician for seven years, while Pilek moved west to Southern California and launched a modeling career.
It was this difference in geography that helped inspire the name of their online business, East West Boutique, debuting in May 2021. “Our motto is ‘fashion from coast to coast’,” says Atchison, highlighting their goal of procuring size-inclusive styles from all around the country. Their brick-and-mortar location opened soon after in November 2021, after hitting their online sales goals 5 months ahead of schedule. “It’s honestly been a whirlwind for us. We’re so thankful to the local community for their support.”
Interacting with the pair at their store in Vandergrift on a busy Saturday morning, that support was apparent. Customers sauntered in and out, trying items on in large fitting rooms, purchasing gifts for friends, and asking both Atchison and Pilek for suggestions. It was clear that these lifelong friends have also developed true connections with their customers, offering personalized recommendations and recalling details from previous orders.
“It’s important for us to give people a personalized experience. We want everyone that walks through our doors to feel special and welcome here,” remarks Pilek. “That is really what East West is all about.”
Entering the boutique from Grant Street, the exposed brick walls and original hardwood floors are beautiful nods to the building’s history. The pair have done a phenomenal job of blending the historical atmosphere of the Vandergrift area with their modern offerings at East West. Customers can expect an ever-changing display of high-quality clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and other accessories at affordable prices.
Both women act as buyers for the boutique, traveling across the country to choose the styles and brands that they feel capture the essence of East West. “We’re modern Boho with a twist,” says Atchison. “You won’t find ‘mall clothes’ here,” Pilek adds. “We really felt like people were getting away from the malls, the big chain stores. Our customers appreciate that we offer unique things, that we’re local, we’re from their community and helping to bring Vandergrift back to what it once was.”
Atchison spoke about the shopping struggles she remembers growing up in Vandergrift. “My mom would have to drive me all over the place to shop for new clothes. As a busy mom, it was really frustrating for her, and now as a mother myself I understand how important it is to have local options.”
Vandergrift, like many areas in Pennsylvania, is experiencing strong revitalization after decades of economic standstill. “Seeing other small businesses opening around us has me more excited than ever for this area – we have new restaurants, retailers, breweries coming in now. It’s a great place to be!” says Pilek. Both women have made a point to be active community members, organizing community-wide body-positivity events and participating in Vandergrift’s Gatherings on Grant.
Celebrating the one-year anniversary of their grand opening last month with a customer appreciation sale featuring complimentary champagne and give-aways, the pair are eager to look forward to the future, growing their business as well as their community.
East West Boutique is located at 140 Grant Avenue, Vandergrift, PA 15690
Find them online at www.shopewb.com or download the app on the App Store or Google Play Store.