Chandler woman gives birth to her retail dream - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler woman gives birth to her retail dream

February 16th, 2022 development
Chandler woman gives birth to her retail dream
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By Paul Maryniak, Executive Editor

Erin Dragoo made it out of school before COVID-19 hit.

With a degree from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, the Chandler woman had her sights set on a career in web design and social media studies.

But she also helped out at her mother-in-law’s 4-year-old Ocotillo boutique called Judy Wear.

That experience gave her the retailer bug – and that itch blossomed last week into the grand opening of her own store, Lunch Money at 2430 S. Gilbert Road, Chandler.

The store reflects a certain nostalgia that Dragoo has to the 1990s. Though born in 1990, she explained, “Fanny packs, baby tees, butterfly clips, oversized scrunchies, chokers, printed leggings – it just brings back some nostalgia for me.”

Hence, she said her “entire store is curated” with an inventory that “took me three months of heavy research and online shopping.”

“It’s carefully selected to ensure that everything goes together, that everything is fun, that nothing is basic or ordinary,” Dragoo explained, stating that she also looks for handmade items to sell because “they make the most unique gifts for both the people we love and ourselves.”

So, Lunch Money brims with a variety of handmade wares: clay and resin earrings and hair clips, concrete phone holders, photo holders and soap dishes, hand-mixed confetti packets, candles, hand-painted blankets, sage bundles and incense burners, resin bottle openers and wine glass holders, dried flower arrangements, wood flowers and wall hangings, paper machè bowls and animal head wall hangings “and some really cool art prints.”

“I will say that I’m very picky,” Dragoo said. “I’ve had a few artists approach me about carrying their product and I’ve turned them down because it doesn’t go with the Lunch Money vibe. Of course, I also carry bigger brands like ban.do and Erin Condren because I have always loved their products, and I never dreamed that I would be able to sell them.”

There are also tarot cards, funny greeting cards, planners and “so many cute gift items.”

Dragoo’s playful approach – reflected even in her grand opening Feb. 1, when she cut a ribbon with giant pink scissors – also extends to the way she decorated Lunch Money: wild black-and-white floor tile, bright green walls and a flower wall for selfies.

A Tucson native who has lived in Chandler for more than 10 years, Dragoo makes no secret of how working in Judy Wear at 950 E. Riggs Road for more than three years only deepened her desire to run her own shop.

“I began by helping her build her logo and brand identity,” she recalled. “Then I created her website and became her social media girl, posting every day for three years. But somewhere in there, I decided that I wanted to be a bigger part of her shop, so I also became the jewelry buyer. And I found that I loved doing that, more than I loved building websites and creating social media content.

“I loved creating the displays and finding different ways to show off our product. I would find myself going to Judy Wear Boutique after hours just to change everything up. It was my play time, my happy place.”

After working there so long, she said, “I was just starting to feel a little unfulfilled.”

“I wanted something that resembled me, something all my own. My close friend, Alisa Moreno, sent me the Instagram page for a tiny little shop in San Diego called Simon Limon, owned by Alexandra Scarlett Perez Demma, and I just fell in love. I was inspired. I wanted my own Simon Limon. So I just decided to go for it.”

As for the store’s name, that also is somewhat nostalgic for Dragoo.

“When I was in high school, my mom would give me $20 at the beginning of each week for lunch and expect that it would last until Friday,” she explained. “I never did use that money to buy lunch. Instead, I would take it to the mall and spend it on little knick knacks and clothes. That brought me so much more joy than eating lunch ever did. So, my store sells everything that I would want to spend my lunch money on. It’s a compilation of everything that I love.”

Now that she has opened, Dragoo has an interesting take on competition.

“I’m not nervous about competing with the big chain stores,” she said. “I love the big chain stores. I think that just being a small business is a competitive edge in itself. I have found that more people want to support local businesses than chain stores as long as they provide the right product and excellent customer service. And I know that I have both of those going for me.

“I’m also confident in the uniqueness of my products, like the handmade earrings and other goodies — you won’t see that at Target or any of the department stores. Also, Lunch Money is an experience. It’s almost sensory overload. It’s an absolute joy to come into my store; it’s more than just shopping. …Everything is bright and fun. Customers will always see me when they walk in and we’ll get to know each other, making it a much more intimate shopping experience.”

Information: lunchmoneyaz.com, 480-622-4220.

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