A Combination of Passions at Unique Boutique
Former longtime Peddler's Village merchant merges fashion with her love for bridge.
Starting at age 4, Dotty Lou Ehling performed as a dancer "halfway around the world," sharing stages with such stars as the Andrews Sisters, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.
"I hit Duke Ellington in the head with a baton one time," she said. "I was working with a horse act (in Massachusetts) and I had to throw the crop into the wings and it hit him in the head."
Between shows, she would often watch musicians play bridge or gin rummy in the music pits. The fashionable dancer quickly came to love bridge and make it, and women's clothing, a big part of her life.
An original merchant at Peddler's Village, she opened the Dotty Lou Shop in 1964, selling bathroom accessories. Later she added bedroom accessories and lingerie. She remained a staple of the village, also modeling clothes there, for 45 years.
Meanwhile, in the early 1970s she started a bridge club in Doylestown in the Moose Lodge. She moved to the Boys Scout headquarters in Doylestown and then about 11 years ago rented space in an industrial park in Warrington.
About five years ago she got the idea to merge her two businesses and open Dotty Lou’s Boutique & Bridge Studio at 320 York Road in Warminster.
"I had two things going all the time so I figured I'd put the bridge studio and boutique together," she said.
Her current store comprises 3,000 square feet, with women's clothing in the front and about 20 tables in the back. And those tables are often filled.
"We run games every day of the week and Monday night, and I teach on Mondays and Thursdays," she explained. "We have 20 to 25 tables on Monday."
Her players mostly learned of the studio through word of mouth.
"We don't advertise anymore," she said.
Players pay $9 per game or $8 if they pay $30 to become an "associate."
Up front is "medium to high price" women's clothing that can't be found in department stores. And bridge players get a discount on their clothing purchases.
Her store, she says, "is very unique because we always have a lot of food and the facilities are nice. We have two bathrooms and good lighting." And there's plenty of parking.
Dotty Lou also teaches bridge to adults at New Hope-Solebury High School.
"I've taught over 8,000 students already,"she said of her bridge teaching career.
The Philadelphia native who now lives in Furlong says she really doesn't have to worry about the recession affecting her business.
"Bridge is an addiction," she said with a laugh. "It's like smoking; you can't quit."