Vintage-style metal letters dangle from the ceiling in a window display of Burlingame’s newest storefront, it spells: RELIANCE. Passersby walk the avenue and look into the windows where mannequins pose on the wooden platform dressed in the contemporary clothing neatly folded inside.
Burlingame Avenue has been known for its small boutiques and storefronts. In recent years, the historical avenue’s charming character and steady foot traffic has attracted big businesses. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners are returning to the avenue. It’s a trend that Sarah Bruml, owner of Reliance Clothing store hopes continues.
“I think that the sense of building a stronger community and supporting the local residents would be really fun for the area,” Bruml said, adding the key for the city will be finding the right balance between the two.
On Oct. 7. Bruml, 25, welcomed customers into the Reliance Clothing store, an idea that was conceptualized over the kitchen table with her family. Over a two-week period, Bruml researched, attended trade shows and designed the layout of her store.
Originally, the plan was that Bruml would make her own clothing line but after much consideration she found that it was best to partner with local San Francisco- and California-based vendors for the majority of her clothing. She works closely with artists to help design customized graphics for some of her clothes and works with a product development team from a local clothing manufacturer to help create the Reliance branded products.
“To me it was a commitment to really good proprietary basics,” Bruml said.
Bruml said she has something for everyone in her store. “From millennials to active adults and kind of very family oriented. I think it’s a huge range,” Bruml said.
Her own fashion sensibility is based on comfort and practicality.
“I’m a sneakers, jeans, T-shirt hoodie gal. I always kind of been that way,” Bruml said.
She wants to offer the same comfort and practicality for her clothing store. While trends in fashion are constantly evolving, it’s always nice to have dependable basic clothes that last for years, she said. And she is hoping her clothing will fulfill this need for her customers.
How it started
Bruml graduated from Scripps College, a smaller college in Southern California, where she studied photography. Originally, she wanted to do lifestyle photography for catalogues. Bruml had the opportunity to work with models and help with the layouts but found that she didn’t really like being on the creative side of fashion. From there, she decided she wanted to work in retail to be closer to the customers.
“I love helping people and seeing their reaction when they find that piece that they fall in love with,” Bruml said.
She began working for Athleta, an activewear clothing store for women where she found her passion. She felt there was a need for active and casual wear for both men and women and decided to start her own store.
Rooted from a long line of ambitious women, Bruml’s aunt started her own company. She helps high school students with their college applications and helps prepare them for the next step in their academic career. Bruml’s mother has instilled in her, at a young age, the value of hard work.
“My mom is a very determined woman who always makes sure things get done, I really admire that,” Bruml said.
So it was no surprise to her family when she decided to start her own business at 25.
Inspired by Busy Lizzy
Bruml is not the only small business owner on Burlingame Avenue in her 20’s, Lizzy Detert, owner of Busy Lizzy’s Baked Goods, opened in May of 2021.
“I got actually really inspired by her opening up. I remember when she had her little pop-up shop in where David’s Tea used to be, which is now the Warby Parker, and I love visiting her shop, it’s really amazing,” she said.
From Bruml’s kitchen counter to the opening week of business, her nervousness has turned into excitement. As she adapts to her customers needs, there is already action. A customer asked if the design on a sweater came in T-shirts too — she’s now in the process of making that happen.
The shop is at 1350 Burlingame Ave. Go to relianceclothing.com for more information.