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Haute wheels

A traveling 20-year-old’s take on the boutique

Beth Suda

With her right arm akimbo, Lauren Gaska stands in her one-stop shop truck. “I love animal print,” Gaska says. “As far as the truck, I wanted it hot pink. And if it wasn’t hot pink, I wasn’t doing it.”

October 8, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Watch out Stacy London; a new style expert is invading Columbia, one driveway at a time. She might not have a TLC camera crew, but equipped with an offensively bright pink truck filled with the hottest fashions, Stephens College sophomore Lauren Gaska is bringing fashion to you. Literally.

When Gaska came up with the concept for Belo’s on Wheels Boutique (the name, pronounced Bee-loes, comes from a Polish nickname her father gave her), her family was not surprised. Gaska’s determination to become an entrepreneur puts substance behind the phrase like mother like daughter: Her mother, aunt and father have all owned their own businesses. Gaska combined her relatives’ vocations while putting her business major to work.

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Her idea for the boutique started six months ago when she was getting tired of writing out rent tags for all the garments her girlfriends borrowed from her closet. She wanted to start a business that offered affordable-yet-trendy, fashion-forward clothing that her friends would love. While talking with her aunt, the unprecedented idea struck: Her father owns a trucking company, her mother a fashion boutique — her business would be a combination of the two. “I decided to sell my car and start looking for a truck,” Gaska says. “My dad couldn’t believe it when I asked him to help me find one. It’s really funny because it will sometimes sit in his lot (in Chesterfield, Mo.). You’ll see all the muddy, gross trucks, and then there’s the bright pink one.”

The mobile boutique certainly attracts attention. Since its debut drive on Aug. 5, Belo’s has been increasingly booking events that resemble the fashion versions of Mary Kay makeup parties. With a single phone call or visit to Gaska’s Web site, shirts, shoes, dresses and handbags will roll right up to your door. With quality similar to BP. of Nordstrom and prices similar to Forever 21 (she brackets everything between $10.99 and $39.99), Gaska buys designs from New York and Los Angeles markets with XS to XL college girls in mind. “I only offer one size of each (design),” she says. “I don’t believe in everybody looking the same; I want everyone to have their own style. And I want it to be affordable.”

Most college students embrace the opportunity to live on their own, but this self-declared “busy body” takes every chance she gets to make the hour-and-a-half drive home to Chesterfield to spend time with her supportive family. Like any father, Gaska’s dad, Marek. worries about his daughter’s future. He says if her grades drop below a certain GPA, the business will be shut down. But until then, it’s 100 percent support and admiration. “Lauren is very opinionated, dedicated and honest,” he says. “When she sets something in her mind, she will achieve it.”

And she is honest when it comes to her clothing. “I don’t just want to make a sale; I want it to fit right and would rather see you leave feeling confident,” she says.

So say sayonara to TLC, save the trip to NYC, and let Gaska bring the shopping to you.

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