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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The Cutting Edge

    Co-owners Lauren Baker, left, and Rachel Balls arrange merchandise inside Razorz Edge, a boutique on North Fourth Avenue. The store specializes in pin-up, vintage and rocker clothing and accessories.
    Co-owners Lauren Baker, left, and Rachel Balls arrange merchandise inside Razorz Edge, a boutique on North Fourth Avenue. The store specializes in pin-up, vintage and rocker clothing and accessories.

    Every Halloween, from second to eighth grade, Lauren Baker got dolled up as a punk rocker.

    Think Madonna in “”Desperately Seeking Susan,”” her permed hair teased and sprayed to the max, silver and black bangles littering her arms, black lace gloves adorning her hands and red lipstick smeared on her mouth.

    “”My parents always laughed at me,”” Baker said. “”But they basically let me do whatever I wanted.””

    A year ago, Baker, 31, a Bettie Page look-a-like with jet-black hair highlighted with a thick swatch of red, turned her lifelong love of fashion into a shrewd business strategy. Along with good friend Rachel Balls, 30, her former manager at alternative clothing chain Hot Topic, Baker opened Razorz Edge, 330 N. Fourth Ave.

    Razorz Edge, whose slogan is “”the cutting edge of alternative fashion,”” caters to the rebellious spirit in everyone, from babies (yes, they sell onesies) to elderly women (religious ephemera popular with the punk and rockabilly crowds).

    Leopard print, skulls, stars, revolvers, pin-up girls and sacred heart motifs catch the eye at every turn. Gwen Stefani coos that she’s “”feeling yummy head to toe”” on a stereo in the background.

    “”I shop here three times a week,”” said James Miller, 20, a body piercer at Majestic Tattoo, 315 N. Fourth Ave., who walks in, tries on a $60 western button-up shirt, tosses a wad of cash over the counter and heads out the door. “”The clothes kick ass. All the clothes I wear are from here.””

    Business at Razorz Edge has been so successful that Baker and Balls have quadrupled their inventory, which includes heavy silver Darth Vader and R2-D2 belt buckles, T-shirts for girls and guys, red Lux de Ville clutches decorated with swallows, polka-dot dresses with swishy skirts and halter tops, hats, sparkly bottle cap earrings by local artist Chulada, a lace-up corset top by Baker in camouflage pink, trimmed with skulls and black lace, hats, pots of Medusa’s Make-up eyeshadows in colors like Blue Balls and Wasabi and gobs and gobs of jewelry.

    Even though Balls and Baker are purveyors of cool, they aren’t hip to copping a James Dean-style attitude.

    “”The number one thing that sets us apart is our customer service,”” Balls said. “”We truly want to know what people think.””

    Baker streaks a line of electric turquoise across the back of her hand with a Q-tip, demonstrating the benefits of adding eyeliner seal to eyeshadow, transforming it into liquid liner, to a fixated group of teenage girls. She greets every customer and bids them adieu, whether they make a purchase or not.

    “”In retail they say you’ll be in the red for two years and we’ve been in the black,”” said Balls, a real estate agent at Long Realty Company. Baker manages the store, while Balls works a few times a month and accompanies her to trade shows.

    Balls said their belt buckles, which range from $25 to $35, are hugely popular among men, because “”guys don’t have a lot of options for accessories.””

    “”They have a lot of different stuff that’s unique, said Laura Kokot, 27, a real estate appraiser. “”The jewelry is awesome.””

    Jewelry like a three inch tall silver star pendant inlaid with rhinestones, topped off with a grinning Jolly Roger. It’s by Gasoline Glamour and retails for $36.99.

    For Balls, “”the bling,”” a.k.a. the multitudes of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings Razorz Edge sells, are her favorite items in the shop.

    Bling has been one of Balls’ obsessions for most of her life. “”Growing up, we had a box of playthings and my favorite was the jewelry,”” she said. “”We would dress up my little brothers. My dad wasn’t too happy about his sons in dresses.””

    On North Fourth Avenue, a haven for one-of-a-kind restaurants, thrift stores, head shops and funky boutiques, women-owned businesses thrive.

    Kurt Tallis, marketing and event director for the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, said 70 percent of all businesses on the street are owned by women.

    “”We’re very proud of that,”” Baker said. “”When you grow up you’re always told that men make more money than women, so you always feel proud when you can do anything guys can, or more.””

    Tallis said the success rate of businesses on North Fourth Avenue is high due to low rent – $1 to $2 per square foot – and huge events like the spring and winter street fairs, which draw an average of 350,000 people.

    While working at Hot Topic together, Baker and Balls realized they were kindred spirits.

    “”So many people in retail don’t have a business mind – they are more creative,”” Balls said. Baker was different. She had an eye for fashion and a mind for managing money. Balls told Baker that if she ever wanted to open her own clothing boutique, she was her gal.

    “”She is one of a handful of people that I’ve met who is driven enough and who I trust enough,”” Baker said.

    In March 2007, they fulfilled that dream, using a private investor (Baker won’t say who) and their own lines of credit.

    They tried to get a small business loan, based on the recommendations of friends and family, but found they were surprisingly difficult to come by.

    “”They want to give loans to people who need a million dollars, not less,”” Baker said. “”So we went to a bank and worked around it.””

    All of Razorz Edge’s profits are invested back in the company; it’s a strategy that Baker and Balls hope will pay off. They want to sell their wares on the Internet, open a larger store and expand to Phoenix. It’s looking good.

    Baker just got her first tattoo, a cluster of stars on her right arm, in shades of red, yellow, blue and purple, outlined in black. Soon, Balls will get matching ink – a trio of stars, down the back of her neck, to complement Baker.

    Razorz Edge will have a booth at KFMA Day, May 16, from noon to 11 p.m., at the Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road.

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