BIRMINGHAM – Alabama’s 2023 Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year is Aisha Taylor, CEO and owner of Bridge + Root, which occupies a sleek space in historic downtown Birmingham facing First Avenue North. Taylor said being named the state’s top emerging retailer “cements my thoughts that hard work, dedication and sacrifice are not in vain.”
Bridge + Root, an upscale men’s boutique launched in 2021, today offers 40 brands with more than half unique to Birmingham. Strategies such as customer segmentation and enhanced visual merchandising have grown the clientele base to nearly 1,600 clients in two years. “Telling a visual story in retail and making people fall in love with colors, fabrics and patterns when they don’t know why, is my retail love language,” said Taylor. She added that “creating a space where guys feel comfortable and feel the space is their own, had a huge impact on how quickly our brand experience found its way into community conversation.”
The Retailer of the Year judges were impressed with Taylor’s use of digital marketing and other promotional efforts, such as social media, geotagging and public relations. “She’s an influencer, but she also uses influencers,” one of the judges noted. “She’s exceptional at promoting herself and her business.” Among the variety of strategies employed, Taylor placed QR codes throughout the store to allow customers to access periodic discount codes, and she created Bridge + Root rack cards that were placed at each downtown Birmingham hotel for guests to see.
Her commitment to community runs deep and incorporates mental health. Taylor devised a program she calls “the Lounge” that is a streaming platform where a psychologist and several hand-picked men “discuss hard and sometimes emotional topics,” she said. “We are BRIDGING our guy from day to night, and we want him to be ROOTED in his individuality and his authenticity.”
Erika Dix of the Birmingham Business Alliance, who nominated Taylor for the award, said, “While customer satisfaction makes for a great business, community involvement makes an enduring business. (Bridge + Root’s) efforts to contribute to social causes, support local initiatives or promote positive change demonstrate its commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen.”
Taylor also strives to make an impact on the retail industry, including speaking to retail entrepreneurs and partnering with a high school as a co-op employer. An internship program she developed for a University of Montevallo retail merchandising major covers “everything from public relations to e-commerce management, to social media marketing to merchandising techniques,” she said. She has joined a list of UAB internship employers and is also writing an e-book on how to run a successful, six-figure boutique.
“Ms. Taylor is a passionate entrepreneur with a keen fashion sense and a focused vision,” wrote Elizabeth Barbaree-Tasker of REV Birmingham Inc., in a letter supporting her nomination. “She recognized the need for broader fashion options within the Magic City, particularly in a relaxed setting that would help her customers create an authentic style based on their individual personality.”
The Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year Award is named in memory of the late Morris “Mickey” Gee, a former Alabama Retail board member and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor. The award is given annually to an innovative and effective Alabama retailer who has been in business for at least two years, but less than five. Gee, who owned the Pants Store for more than 30 years, realized that the first five years are tough, but young businesses can have a huge impact.
“Aisha Taylor is a Retailer of the Year every year to the Bridge + Root customers, its four employees and the entire Birmingham community,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.