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February 12, 2013     Cape Gazette
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~J Cape Gazette TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12 - THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2013 i3 Saltwater Portrait )) Love of art translates to fashion for Jen Peer White By Kara Nuzback cervical cancer. "I didn't," she knuzback@capegazette.com said. But the scare motivated her to leave her job for one that T ennifer Peer White is offered health insurance. |preparing her store, White left to work at the Ann , | Downtown Cowgirl, forTaylor outlet on Route 1. "I spring. She is buying could not stand it," she said. "I new merchandise, setting up missed the Avenue, the pace, window displays and updating the people." the store's website, downtown- After eight months, she left cowgirl.com, from which she Ann Taylor and secured a job hopes to start selling accesso- as assistant manager at South ties and other small merchan- Moon Under on Rehoboth Av- dise by the end of March.enue; it was there that she met But this isn't White's first ro- Kesselring. deo; at 33, she has accomplished Her future business partner more than many women twice applied for a sales position, her age. equipped with a fashion mer- White and her business part- chandising degree from Univer- ner, Erin Johnson Kesselring, sity of Delaware. have owned the clothing and "I remember telling her, 'You accessory boutique on Re-are way overqualified for this hoboth Avenue for nearly eight position, but I hope you take years, it,'" White said. "And she did, White has been working and we've been friends ever on Rehoboth Avenue almostsince." continually since she turned 14. White and Kesselring worked She landed her first retail job at at South Moon Under together a surf boutique; eventually, she for about three years, White said, the owner was taking her said. When Kesselring was along on buying trips, passed over for an assistant After graduating from Cape buyer job at the store, she left Henlopen High School, White to work at White House Black said many of her classmates Market. Around that time, the went on to attend college. "All two women decided to open a my friends were leaving," she boutique of their own. said. "I never really knew what White said she and Kessel- I wanted to go to school for." ring held weekly meetings for White said she took an art one year to plan the opening history class at Delawareof Downtown Cowgirl. "We Technical Community College, bought things for the store be- but she soon decided to stick fore we even had the lease," she with her blossoming career in said. "Major leaps of faith." retail fashion. "I just felt like Looking back, White said, I was getting the experience I she is not sure how their plans wanted," she said. came together so perfectly. White said her parents were When the owner of Loungin supportive of her decision. "Do Lizzard told them he was what you feel is best for you," moving to a different location, they told her. White and Kesselring had a White's parents owned a business plan ready. "Some- store in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., how, it magically came togeth- where they sold her father's art er," she said. "I remember the - etched nature landscapes on day we both put in our two- mirrors, weeks' notice at the same time." The family moved to the White said she will never Cape Region from Charleston, forget unlocking the doors on W.Va., when White was in the opening day of the store in seventh grade. 2005. "I still remember some Like her father, White loved of the things we sold that day," art, but she was not sure how she said. to translate it into a success- White said the business had ful career. "He really struggled a great first year. The hardest with it his whole life," she said part, she said, was not taking of her father, customers' comments person- "Somehow, it just translated ally. "Everyone who walks by to art as fashion," White said. just comes in," she said. "You White worked at the surf hear the good, you hear the boutique for five years. At 21, bad." she said she had a health scare - But even when the economic doctors thought she might have downturn hit in 2009, White JENNIFER PEER WHITE models pieces from her shop, Downtown Cowgirl, on Rehoboth Avenue. said, the store remained profit- able; she credits the unique merchandise, reasonable price point and Kesselring's business savvy. "Erin is the best busi- ness partner anyone could ask for," White said. But, White said, she tries not to dwell on the good things. "I don't want to jinx myself," she said. "We just wanted something fresh and unique," White said. "We want people to walk in and say, 'I want a piece of this store to take home with me.'" Though styles have changed over the years, Downtown Cowgirl has kept its unique edge. The shop is packed with pieces that shoppers would never find in a corporate store - beachy nautical tops with a bohemian twist, retro pat- tern coats and dresses with a modern fit and chunky, bright jewelry. "We know our custom- ers now better than ever," she said. White said she has gone through a plethora of fashion phases, from purple hair and Mary Janes to board shorts and Roxy T-shirts. Recently, she SUBMITTED PHOTO said, she has been able to create her own looks and step outside of what is popular. "I'm still figuring it out," said of her style. To look at White, you would think she had style down to a science. She pairs neutrals with pops of bold color and modern cuts with vintage prints. White lives in Lewes with her husband, Marcus White, and their dog, Stella. She said Kesselring intro- duced her to Marcus one night in 2001, at Third Edition, once located on Lake Avenue in Rehoboth Beach. The couple went on their first date a few weeks after being introduced. "And we've been together ever since," White said. White said her husband's support was essential to her success as an entrepreneur. "His faith in me being able to do this is what made me pursue it more," she said. "He didn't once question our ability to do it successfully." As her husband inspired her to pursue one dream, her dog inspired her to pursue another. Stella, an English bulldog, is the source of White's roller derby persona, Adorabully. White.joined Southern Dela- ware Roller Girls in October 2011. She said she had always been afraid to play competi- tive sports; the closest she ever came was cheerleading from the sidelines at Cape High. But, White said, she was drawn to the sport. "It was something I wanted to do with every bone in my body," she said. Since White has progressed on the track, she said she has seen a difference in herself off the track. "Joining roller derby has been overcoming multiple fears," she said. White said her confidence has soared, and she is less shy than she used to be. "I play roller derby," she said. "Any- thing I put my mind to, I can probably do." Her derby persona has even translated to her career. "I've been dying to catch a shop- lifter," she said. Luckily for her - and the shoplifter - she hasn't caught one yet.