Bella Moda Founder Has Her Customers Well Covered


In the world of elegant ladies’ fashion in Central Oregon, Karen Poulsen of Bella Moda has her customers well covered… so to speak.  As owner of three high-end women’s clothing boutiques in Bend, Redmond and their new annex in Sisters, Poulsen is relishing her job, dressing discriminating women with distinctive threads and accessories from designers around the globe.

“It’s funny about the business community here in Bend.  We’ve been here for two years and are now just starting to get noticed,” said Poulsen.  “I suppose when things are repeated enough times they finally sink in.  There’s been a huge turnover here since 2009 when there were many stores closing and lots of empty space.  We originally opened as a high-end, designer consignment shop that expanded into new items as well.  We still carry an ever-changing inventory of excellent, gently-used pieces that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Expansion of her outlets in a drowsy economic climate was an instinctive choice for Poulsen.

“I was so fortunate to find a spot open in Sisters,” she said.  “They had divided a wall inside Cascade of Gifts next door, creating a brand new space.  It was all cleaned and painted and all I needed was to build some dressing rooms and fixtures and we were set to go.  It was a quick and easy move-in.  I’m right in the heart of downtown are really thrilled with the location.”

Poulsen’s retail prowess didn’t come naturally at first, though her fashion sense being in the corporate world was necessarily sharp.

“I was in the tech industry in South Florida from the ‘90s through the mid-2000s and involved with two companies, one that went public and a second that was sold to Lexus Nexus.  My background was always in business to business connections and never directly with the public.”

The idea for Bella Moda, which translates in Italian to “Beautiful Fashion,” came after the blonde Floridian retired here to Bend and had trouble finding anywhere to buy ladies’ designer fashions without having to drive to Portland or Seattle.

“So I made a place of my own,” she laughs. “My stores are all about ladies, not little girls and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way.  There’s a lot of boutiques in downtown Bend but they mostly cater to the younger crowd and younger body.  I wanted to give the women of Bend a shop carrying finer fashion and be able to keep the money local.  I am all about giving back to the community.  That’s very important to me.”

Customer service is something Poulsen refuses to skimp on in any of her locations.

“If you come in to any of my stores and have not a clue how to put an outfit together we will help you do that,” she insists.  “We’re very much about exceptional personal service.  So if customers have a special occasion coming up, be it a class reunion, romantic date, anniversary, a family wedding or a trip to Hawaii, we can guide you and build a fantastic wardrobe for that specific need.”

“The thing I’ve tried to do this last year is work on building relationships with not only my customers and clients, but also my vendors, to be able to bring in specialty items on request.”

Bella Moda carries everything from the very casual to the very dressy and everything in between. Often, Poulsen will find interesting or unique items or lines of European coats and purses and is able to purchase small quantities.

“So when a woman falls in love with this beautiful coat or handbag here, she’ll know she’s the only one in Bend who will own that item. We also do an absolutely amazing business in previously-owned designer handbags.  There’s a lot of knockoffs out there and we don’t want any of those.”

One of the many rewards of the fashion business is hearing flattering comments from her many customers and helping to make them feel beautiful in the clothes they sell.

“I’ve heard from many clients that our girls totally dressed them and they loved that level of service.  Having that sense of awareness and experience allows us to accommodate all those varying needs.  The whole business world is becoming more casual and we can provide those types of outfits for Central Oregon too.”

Bella Moda branched out into Redmond in 2010 following the downtown beautification and renovation projects after noticing the lack of any women’s boutiques.

“I wanted to capitalize on being the first one back and being able to give something back to the Redmond community.  Our Sisters store opened up this past July.   We were missing a whole group of the area population that seldom travels to Redmond or Bend to shop.  So when a premiere location presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up.  I thank the Sisters residents for the warm reception they’ve given us.  The new store is going to be open year round for the tourists, and more importantly, the locals looking for upscale ladies’ clothing with our signature service.”

And for the men who accompany their women into the store, Poulsen hasn’t forgotten about their comfort.

“All my stores have the “man chair” or “man couch” with a big screen tv or magazines to entertain them while their significant other is attended to.”

In addition to her duties at Bella Moda, marketing her businesses, buying fashions and overseeing her confident staff, Poulsen is on the board of directors for The Nature Of Words, the non-profit literary organization whose mission continues to deliver writing education for the youth and adult community in Central Oregon.

“It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and a cause very near and dear to my heart,” she said.

Bella Moda in Bend 1001 Wall St. 541-550-7001.  The Redmond Annex at 222 NW Seventh St., 541-504-0222.  Sisters Bella Moda 150 W. Cascade Ave., 541-549-1744.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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