By MAKENZIE JOHNSON/Montana State News

For Brianna Schutz, the Gallatin Valley Mall has been more than just a place to work for the last five years. For Schutz, the mall means home, a place to meet new friends, and a place to further her career in fashion.

Schutz has done more than further herself in her passion. She has also changed the atmosphere for shoppers in the two stores she has worked at: Vanity and now Rue21.

Schutz arrived in Bozeman after growing up in Columbus, Mont., fresh out of high school and desperate for a job. She applied everywhere, and finally landed a job with Vanity as a part-time assistant manager.

“I don’t know how I got that. I had no retail experience,” said Schutz. “I was always interested in clothes and shopping.”

Schutz was excited about the move to a bigger town with more opportunity. She knew everyone where she grew up, not only because of the small town but because of her involvement in the community.

“I did volleyball, softball, cheerleading, was class president, sports captain, FCCLA, BPA… the list goes on,” Schutz said with a laugh.

Schutz quickly made Vanity an unforgettable shopping experience for her customers, and created her own close-knit community much like her Columbus home.

“I love working with people because some days can be really disheartening, but then you get that one customer who can help brighten your day. I had one lady come in the other day to tell me that ever since shopping with me, her little girl pretends to be me,” Schutz said.

After shopping with Schutz, her regulars quickly become a friend to her.

“I have so many customers that text me asking ‘where to get this’ or ‘that’… they come to me because they know I’ll tell them the truth,” she said.

Schutz was a part-time assistant for Vanity for about six months, and later was promoted to a full-time assistant manager.

Shortly after her promotion, Schutz got a frightening call from her family. Her father had died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day of 2011.

“The promotion before his death was definitely a blessing. It helped to keep busy,” Schutz said. “It sort of helped me prepare to no longer have the financial backing he gave. I had my own insurance and benefits once I didn’t have his.”

Schutz said that her parents always supported her, and rarely needed to push her as she is a “self-starter.” Although February is always a hard month for her, she doesn’t let it alter her spunky, outgoing personality.

Schutz later was promoted again to a store manager at Vanity. She had a semester left of her English degree, but decided to take a semester off to go through the transition. After a semester off turned into a year, Schutz realized that an English degree wasn’t what she wanted with her life.

“I was getting stir crazy with only working, but I didn’t want to go back to my English degree… I wanted something that would cater to my 50-hour work week,” Schutz said.

Schutz then signed up for a two-year online fashion degree.

Her passion for a fashion career clearly showed with the awards at work she received. She has been Store Manager of the Month, travelling manager, as well as on a Best of the Best committee at Vanity. She now works as the store manager at Rue21, and in only five months is already in training as a store opening specialist.

In the Vanity to Rue21 transition five months ago, Schutz struggled with the new atmosphere.

“Vanity was home for four years,” Schutz said.

Most of Schutz’s customer relationships were so strong that they followed her to the new store. She said she had to educate them as well as herself on the new product.

It’s no secret that Schutz’s hard-working mentality and great relationships with people got her to where she is, but these aren’t her only values.

“I think my biggest philosophy is everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be where I am without the series of events that happened,” she said.

Schutz’s dreams don’t end as a store manager. She plans to climb the corporate ladder and hopefully transfer to a bigger location.

Her ultimate goal, though, is to open her own boutique with an emphasis on online shopping.

“I would probably open just a couple of stores. Everyone shops online now,” Schutz said.

She believes that with the love and support of her friends, family, and especially loyal customers, opening a boutique would be a definite possibility.

“I would have to open it here. I have so many connections here that I know it’d be easier to open a store in Bozeman.”

– Edited by Hannah Ballantyne

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