Barbara Brown opened her shop Mitzi's Boutique in 1968 in Gympie Road Chermside, next to the dry cleaner and opposite the Chermside Post Office. She named it after a small fashion shop she had seen in Sydney. While her husband Bill, played and watched cricket, Barbara visited the fashion stores on Sydney's North Shore.
From the start, it was a very successful business. There was one other fashion store close by and the two shops maintained a business rivalry. The Myer complex was several blocks away. Women came from Aspley, Chermside, Hamilton, Clayfield and Ascot to look and to buy.
It was at this time that the English model, Jean Shrimpton, came to Australia and her clothes generated a lot of interest in Australian fashion circles.
Barbara originally thought that the shop would be a nice hobby and she would only need to call in to the shop every couple of days, but it soon became obvious that she needed to be on site more often. She employed Maureen Brown and Fay Nichols and they were kept very busy between 9am and 4.40pm
The shop was rented from Mr. Anderson of Lutwyche. There were only 2 shops in the suburbs selling women's fashion clothing - one at Taringa and the other at Chermside.
Barbara sold evening wear, pyjama suits, hot pants - whatever was fashionable. She chose clothes from designers such as Prue Acton, Princeton, Geoff Bade, Liz Davenport, Carla Zampatti and some of the big English labels. At first, the clothes came from Europe but later they were imported from China.
In 1974, Barbara moved the business to a much larger shop in the Aspley shopping area, next to the present Cold Rock ice cream shop. At that time, The Steakhouse was next to Mitzi's Boutique and diners used to eat at The Steakhouse and then look at the fashions in the boutique next door. She had realized that most of her customers came from the Aspley area which was a rapidly growing suburb. At its peak, Mitzi's Boutique was the second largest women's suburban fashion boutique in Australia.
Barbara designed a very exclusive shop modelled on some of the intimate shops on Sydney's North Shore. There were 2 manikins in the window, burgundy carpet, gold curtains and beautiful furniture. One customer's husband even wanted to buy the large gold-framed mirror.
Sales were held at the end of seasons and advertised in the Courier Mail.
She planned to cater for middle aged women 35 and over but soon afterwards, high schools began to organize formal functions for final year students. She had fashions that appealed to the teenagers, as well as fashions for their mothers. Barbara organized so many fashion parades that she became known as "Queen of the Parades." Most of the parades were fund raisers and parades helped raise money for churches, schools and bowling clubs. She conducted parades for TAA air hostesses in Lennons Hotel to raise money for charities.
It was always a gamble to choose popular styles and fashions. Some just didn't take and a large summer stock required a huge initial outlay. The weather also affected sales, particularly wet weather.
Another part of the business involved alterations to the designer clothes to fit the individual customers. Gwen Benison was the expert in this job at the Aspley shop.
Barbara's husband, Bill, had a sports store in the city and they both sold their businesses. Barbara sold hers to Lyn Jackson in 1980 and they spent much of their retirement following various cricket matches and associated social functions in Australia and overseas.