Small Business

Woman seeks to avert fashion emergencies with business on wheels

LeeAnn McDonald had to have this used ambulance for her fashion business.
LeeAnn McDonald had to have this used ambulance for her fashion business. The Wichita Eagle

LeeAnn McDonald couldn't wait for retirement to launch her second career selling women's clothes. Not after seeing an advertisement for a used ambulance.

Suddenly her path was clear: Buy the ambulance and name her business LeeLee's Fashion Emergency.

"I saw this (ambulance) and thought 'perfect' – perfect name, perfect time," McDonald said.

McDonald still works as a silk screen printer at Textron Aviation, adding company logos and other printing to jets before they're picked up by customers. But two or three times a month, she drives her ambulance to a block party, outdoor market or other event and sets up shop.

McDonald, who's known to most people as LeeLee, said she's "always been a diva, I guess. I love clothes."

One thing that's frustrated her and led to a few fashion emergencies is the lack of stylish clothes in larger sizes.

“I'm not a small girl, but I'm not big," she said. "You don't ever find really cool fashions in extended sizes. I don't like to say plus size, I say extended.”

So she has made sure to include plenty in her inventory, figuring it's just good business."I would like to know the percentage of women over size 14 that can't find clothes."

McDonald stocks dresses, pants, jackets, dusters, jewelry and other accessories. Much mimics her own favorite style – "bohemian, western-style clothing" ranging from casual to dressy. Most are made in Oklahoma or Texas. "I try to keep it close to Kansas because I really believe in local business."

The clothing business is the second business for her. She and her husband, John, owned a tiny neighborhood tavern called The Jug before it was torn down. That experience helps, she said.

The 1978 Ford one-ton ambulance she bought started out as a Boeing runway ambulance, then served the city of Pratt. “My husband kept asking ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’” she said.

But the vehicle has been a hit with customers. She uses it to transport clothes rather than as a showroom, pulling out racks of dresses and setting up shelves she bought second-hand from Dillard's.

McDonald said she tries to offer reasonably priced clothes, with prices ranging from from $15 to $65. "For under $90, I can get you a complete outfit to go, minus the shoes."

McDonald says she's in no hurry to retire from Textron. But she's glad she didn't wait to get a start on her next career.

“You just gotta get off your rear and do it," she said. "Anything's possible.”

Now you know


Owner: LeeAnn McDonald

Phone: 316-518-2425