LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Boutiques and milliners are starting to see a business boost ahead of the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Last year was tough to weather for small businesses catering to the Derby crowds. The race was first postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the rescheduled event for September did not allow any fans inside the track. So for shops selling any Derby-related fashion, it was a huge blow to business.

However, even with limited capacity this year, designers and boutiques are seeing a welcome business boost from customers searching for the perfect outfit for the track or private parties.

“I think people are really getting excited again and are getting back into that Derby spirit,” said Jenny Pfanenstiel, a master milliner and the owner of Forme’ Millinery.

Pfanenstiel has been making custom hats for 14 years. She’s also been named the featured milliner of the 147th Kentucky Derby.

Her hat sales came to a complete halt during the height of the pandemic, but she’s thankful for all the custom orders this year. And that includes matching masks to go with unique hats or fascinators. Pfanenstiel said many of the pieces ordered this year are for out-of-towners or people tied to the horse racing industry.

“They’re looking forward to dressing up and doing the whole Derby experience and planning their hat and everything that goes with it,” Phanenstiel said.

Forme’ Millinery still has inventory available on its website or in the shop on East Main Street.

Just off the road is the new boutique Mamili, which opened in March 2020. Just a week after the shop’s grand opening, everything shut down because of the pandemic. It’s been a tough year with few people leaving their homes to go shopping. So the owner, Melissa Huff, said she’s thankful for the recent boost in customers looking for that perfect head-to-toe Derby outfit.

“The last two weeks have been so amazing and very exciting,” Huff said.

Mamili has inventory on its website and in the shop, which is part of the NuLu Marketplace.

“We’ve got Derby hats, fascinators, men’s fedoras," Huff said. "We’ve got all the great Derby outfits for women. Shirts, ties, handkerchiefs for men. We’re ready! We’re ready for Derby to happen, and we’re ready for people to come and shop. Come help small businesses and shop local."

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