Interview by Mandy Lancia
Photography by Jodi Bodtke
From her first job in the shoe department at Nordstrom through a career with brands like Alexander Wang, Betsey Johnson, and Tricia Foley, Anna Alexopoulos honed her skills and steeped her passion for all things visual. Design, merchandising, sourcing, styling — she does it all and now, as the proprietor of One Oak Street, she does it for herself.
What inspired you to open your own business?
When I look back, all my experiences pointed to opening a business without me even realizing it. I’ve worked with many different designers throughout my career in fashion, interior design, and product development. Ultimately, I fell in love with retail while working at a friend’s store in Manhattan. I loved interacting with customers. I loved styling. I loved the whole atmosphere and thought, oh my gosh, I want to do this someday.
And then what happened?
At the time, I didn’t think a store was possible because it’s a huge investment. And for years, I said that I would go to Greece, work with artists, and bring back product to sell. So instead, I did that.
That trip to Greece was life-transforming. Everywhere I went felt like confirmation I was on the right path. I kept meeting the right people at the right time, from incredible designers to sculptors. I met a family who handcrafted leather sandals in a tiny workshop, and I was able to help design pieces I’d been looking for.
I found beautiful jewelry and vintage textiles to bring back. And I continued to research because I’m a firm believer that when you put things out there and take steps forward, it all unfolds.
When I returned from Greece in June of 2018, somebody called me about an available retail space and I just knew. It was now or never. My intuition told me to take a leap of faith, and I did.
What do you carry at One Oak Street?
Clothing, accessories, homewares, apothecary, and children’s clothing. Brands that are great quality, and most of the time, family-owned. I enjoy working with people that make beautiful pieces that are highly wearable, made to last, and aren’t found everywhere.
And the experience? Do you have something specific in mind for customers?
I love styling. One upside of covid — with the shop open by appointment only — is that the customer and I get to have a one-on-one styling experience. I love seeing them transform. I really want people to feel good in what they’re wearing.
The best is when a customer says that they could never wear something and then put it on and feel amazing. It changes their mindset about what they ‘should’ wear.
I don’t want people to come in once and not come back because they bought something that doesn’t feel wearable. I want the experience to begin a relationship we can build on.
What from your past helps you run your shop today?
Throughout my life, I’ve moved many times. People kept asking me, why don’t you settle somewhere? I would pick up and move places without knowing anyone. It gave me the tenacity to take leaps of faith, and that’s so much of what owning a business is about.
I’m also grateful for the women I’ve worked for because they were so attentive to detail and always very supportive. Having those experiences helped shape my vision and create a database of things I want in a store.
And plans for the future?
My plan for the future is to return to Greece and work more closely with the designers I met to create custom bags, shoes, jewelry, and eventually, clothing for the shop.
What brought you to southwest Michigan? And what made you stay?
After moving so much, I realized I wanted to be closer to my family in the Chicago area, so I came here for the summer and loved it. I was drawn to the area’s natural beauty. Being near the lake and closer to family was calming.
I appreciate that it’s close to the city, yet surrounded by agriculture. I read that this is the second-largest agricultural area in the country besides California! I enjoy the local food and wine. I’ve made great friendships. And I love sunsets over the water. Of all the places I’ve lived, I’m happiest here.
Sushi Night at Bentwood Tavern — that’s our favorite thing to do. A lot of restaurants offer specials during the week to take care of locals in winter.
One Oak Street
15412 Red Arrow Hwy
Lakeside, MI 49116