Laurie’s, a women’s apparel and accessories boutique, was founded in 1980 by Laurie Chatham. For more than 30 years, Laurie’s has been providing sophisticated and fashion-forward trends for women of all ages. Laurie’s buyers travel to fashion markets across the U.S. to find the latest looks, which results in a shopping atmosphere that is similar to shopping districts in major cities. Laurie’s prides itself on providing the ultimate shopping experience through a knowledgeable staff that helps customers build their dream wardrobe with clothes they’ll love forever. In 1990, Kristi Larkin, then a college student majoring in apparel and textiles and minoring in business, began working for Laurie’s. She continued at Laurie’s until moving out of the Fargo area. Several years and a few life changes later, Larkin found herself back in Fargo at the time Chatham was looking to sell the business. The timing was a perfect fit.
Larkin joined Chatham as a business partner in 2008, with the goal of fully acquiring Laurie’s in 2010. In the spring of 2009, Larkin began visiting with banks in an effort to seek financial backing. She went first to her current bank at the time, thinking that the connection she already had at the bank would work in her favor. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
“At that very first meeting, I felt incredibly dismissed,” says Larkin. “I was beyond disappointed.”
Larkin then met with the Small Business Administration, and while she didn’t feel dismissed, she wasn’t overly hopeful. She decided to contact Pam Orth, a relationship manager at Alerus Financial who had stopped into Laurie’s and encouraged Larkin to “come see us”. Because Chatham had worked with Alerus Financial at one point during her Laurie’s ownership, Orth was familiar with the business. Larkin was a bit familiar with Alerus as it was her parents’ bank of choice, and she herself had banked with Alerus as a young adult.
“Pam spent lots and lots of time with me,” Larkin says. “She was certain we could find a way to make it happen, and she and Alerus did just that. Working with Alerus was a night and day difference from working with my previous bank. I found myself asking why I had ever left Alerus in the first place.”
Larkin says that when she began taking over the business in 2008 – a time when the economic outlook was uncertain – many people said she was buying a business “at the worst time.” She herself acknowledges that as a first-time business owner, it was a daunting period. Orth and Alerus, however, made all the difference.
“Pam knew what the business was capable of,” says Larkin. “Her trust in me gave me the confidence I needed. It’s been a great partnership all the way around.”
Larkin says that she keeps in regular contact with Orth and Alerus so that they deeply know and understand her business. “That’s some of the best business advice I’ve been given: don’t call your banker only when you need banker. Let them know what’s going on day to day. Pam and Alerus work hard for me, and I want to work hard for them.”
Larkin concludes that Alerus has played a vital role in the success of Laurie’s. “Alerus has totally exceeded my expectations. They know me by name, and I know them by name. They are always willing to lend a hand, from the smallest task to the biggest undertaking. It’s been amazing. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Fargo, North Dakota
Business Debit Card
Business Line of Credit