‘It will be like a mini-mall’
Kimberly Smith, owner of Kimberly’s Boutique, 54 Courtland Street in downtown Rockford, has always had a knack for envisioning how things will work. She is moving her variety store, Squires Street Mercantile, from the location outside her back door to right next door, and will open a wall so shoppers can walk back and forth through either of the two shops.
“It is a little bigger space, so we can add more merchandise,” she said. Additionally, the Courtland Street storefront will give the variety store better visibility. A door will be put in between the two locations, allowing shoppers to move from shop to shop without going outdoors—a plus given Michigan’s quickly-changing weather.
“It will be like a mini-mall,” Smith stated. She said the variety store has been doing well since it opened a year ago during the Harvest Fest of 2012. The idea behind the variety store was to offer a shop where customers can find a wide variety of items for gifts or for themselves at an inexpensive price.
“Rockford didn’t have an old fashioned variety store,” Smith said. She said the wide variety of items priced to be affordable, from fun different socks at three pairs for $5 to wine accessories, inspirational gifts, home décor, college clothing, greeting cards, magnets, coasters and more. “We have lots of little impulse items,” she said of the shop inventory. She said the low price point concept allows shoppers to walk in, and if something catches their eye, they buy it.
Kimberly said the boutique also continues to do well, now past its twentieth year. Her loyal shoppers come from all over west Michigan, and often from out of state. The last time the Squire was doing a story from in her shop, taking a mother-daughter picture of two women browsing the selection, one was from Connecticut, in town to visit.
“Lots of times I hear, ‘Whenever I am in Michigan, I make sure I visit Kimberly’s,” Smith shared. She said it is a compliment and shows the wide appeal of her brands and selection.
Smith believes there are many reasons to be optimistic about local retail. In addition to changes at her own stores (moving the Mercantile and connecting the two stores through an indoor access) she said the ‘Buy Nearby’ movement is gaining momentum. A big event on October 5, where local shops will offer refreshments, entertainment or future savings coupons has been getting lots of attention and getting store owners and shoppers excited.
The event is part of the Michigan Retailers Association promotion rewarding shoppers who choose local stores make their purchases. “I do think that is going to be a big deal,” Smith said. She said she bought blue gloves for the event (Get Caught Blue Handed) and plans to stage a staff photo with everyone’s blue hands forming the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan.
“People are starting to realize how valuable it is to have local shops,” she said. “They are realizing that the money spent here stays here in the community. We also offer jobs and employ people in the community.” Smith herself has ten employees, all residents of either Rockford or Cedar Springs. “I think people will become more conscious of how much it hurts someone like me [to not shop locally].”
Smith also said her industry, in particular, is a very hands-on type of shopping. “People like to touch the clothes, see them, try them on,” she said. “And we take returns. Try to return something you bought off the Internet. Forget it.”
Smith said the newly reopened Squires Street Mercantile will be unveiled and open in time for this year’s Harvest Fest September 28. The store will be open seven days a week, as is Kimberly’s Boutique. The Squire’s Street Mercantile address remains 54 Courtland, like Kimberly’s, because the shops are all under one roof. The hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.