From the Capitol to the shopping mall

When Kelly Collis Fredrick shops, she likes to go alone.

The former Capitol Hill aide was recently discussing a local sample sale in March with her friends, but pre-empted any plans for a group outing.

“I said, ‘You know what? I am going, but it’s not really a social thing. I sort of go, get in there and get all the deals, and get out,’ ” Fredrick says.

Fredrick knows her body type and dresses accordingly. She prefers denim on “lazy days” but knows how to glam it up. She says it is OK to wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

She relies on that same independent sensibility in her latest career move. She recently launched CityShopGirl, an e-mail and Internet service that alerts readers to local shopping deals during a recession so deep it leaves experts searching for new descriptors every day.

So far Fredrick has jumped other professional hurdles with ease. She began her career in politics in 1994 working on the gubernatorial campaign of John Rowland, a Connecticut Republican and former congressman who went to jail in 2004 on corruption charges.

Fredrick, a native Washingtonian, eventually made her way back to the capital but left GOP politics in 2000, just when George W. Bush won the White House and her party’s leadership opportunities were expanding. She joined a local boutique PR firm that worked with young technology companies. She says she helped the agency grow amid the spike and plunge of the dot-com industry.

“I’ve always sort of had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Fredrick says. The 35-year-old mother of two left her latest gig in public relations at the National Jean Company in September to start her e-mail service, which she describes as a word-of-mouth-like network for spreading shopping deals around the city.

“I wanted it to feel like your girlfriend is telling you about something,” she says.

Fredrick launched the service in October with mostly friends as subscribers. Nearly five months later, she estimates her readership is 4,000, many of whom want to continue shopping, eating out and looking for other good buys despite the flagging economy, she says.

“My readers, from what they’ve told me … they’re looking for something very accessible,” she says. “They still like to go out to eat, they still like to go shopping, get their manicures and pedicures.”

Recent CityShopGirl deals include 20 percent off at Crooked Monkey, a D.C.-based T-shirt company; a 15-minute facial with every product bought at the CVS-owned cosmetics store Beauty 360; and $2 martinis at the Georgetown restaurant Mie N Yu. Fredrick has also included promotions beyond restaurants and shops, having offered free H&R Block tax software — a deal she called “wildly popular” — and a “girls weekend” package at 70 Park Avenue Hotel in Manhattan that included martinis upon arrival and manicures and pedicures.

Her early efforts have already gained her national recognition. U.S. News and World Report declared CityShopGirl one of “6 Money Web Sites to Watch in 2009.”

“Each day brings a new discount at this fun, new website,” wrote Kimberly Palmer, also comparing it to the well-known Internet-based deal service Daily Candy.

All of this consumer-based work may seem like a far cry from Fredrick’s professional start in politics, but she says she still dabbles in politics — “It’s so easy to do when you’re here in Washington” — and relies on lessons she learned while working for public figures.

Fredrick’s father, a physician, was a Defense Department appointee during President George H.W. Bush’s administration, and she remembers accompanying him to meet planes of wounded soldiers coming back from the first Persian Gulf War. Later on, as a high school student, she interned for then-Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), an experience that furthered her interest in politics.

“I remember I used to RSVP for Sen. Warner, and I thought it was the greatest thing,” she says. “I just got the buzz of being up there and being exposed.”

She later returned to Capitol Hill, where she worked briefly for then-Rep. Ed Pease (R-Ind.). She moved on to work for then-Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and eventually became his campaign finance director. One of her first learning experiences, though, came after graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut, when she worked on a reelection camping for then-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.).

“I remember one thing Chris Shays taught me,” she recalls. “At  these fundraisers … he would say, ‘Your job tonight — I want you to meet every single person in this room.’ … It was a little intimidating, but it really taught me about networking and being able to talk with other people.”

When she moved off Capitol Hill, Fredrick says, she would always look to work with or hire people with Capitol experience because she considers it to be “an amazing learning experience.”

“You learn to deal with people in high-stress situations, people of all different backgrounds, from constituents to co-workers to the VIPs, members of Congress,” she says. “It’s like a little training camp.”

CityShopGirl has yet to expand its staff to more than two unpaid interns, but Fredrick says she’s hoping to break into other cities — possibly Philadelphia, Atlanta or Boston — by summer.

Fredrick’s own consumer tastes tend toward the basics — she loves jeans, shies away from trendy clothes, prefers reds and pinks, and likes to meet friends for a cocktail and an appetizer. Her wardrobe mixes red and pink hues; she shops at Gap and is “a sucker for Diane von Furstenberg dresses and Bettye Mueller shoes.”

“I love following trends,” she says. “But I am not a slave to fashion by any means. I will occasionally buy one item that is sort of the trendy item of the season — i.e., skinny jeans, neon colors — but I really do stick to basics.”