The times are a-changin’ but boutiques are here to stay

Alison Morrison ’15

In decades past, Westport was home to storefronts such as Miss Plums Particular or Mr. Frank’s Hair Salon. Nowadays, Urban Outfitters, The Gap and JCrew clutter up Westport vibes. The ‘mom and pop’ boutiques in Westport have taken a hit. However, there are a few that are still going strong.

Faye Kim Designs, just off Main Street, has been in Westport 11 years, and feels the effects of the new downtown.

“We can’t compete with the Gaps and the JCrews and the Nikes,” owner Faye Kim said.

Kim tries to stay in the community, working with local manufacturers and employees, hoping to keep people educated about the benefits of shopping in town.

“When you shop locally, people don’t understand that they are investing in their own town” Kim said.

Julia Greene ’15 thinks that boutiques definitely add pizzazz to the Westport area. “They’re cute, and they’ve got class,” she said.

Greene understands that chain stores could act as drawbacks for business. “When we lose the privately owned businesses and boutiques, it changes the whole feeling of Westport.”

Millie Rae’s boutique, located across from Stop & Shop, has been in Westport for five years. Owner Cheryl Sugel has an alternate point of view on the effects of chain stores.

“I think [chain stores are] actually great for the community,” Sugel said.

Sugel believes that while competition will get tougher as more big businesses move in, the changes will be for the better.

“I have a pretty positive attitude about the retail scene in town. I think it’s healthy and good for us,” Sugel said.

Most agree that a happy medium is the way to go.

“It’s nice to have some big brand places as a backup, but it’s much more interesting and fun for the community to support and try to find cool stuff at local businesses,” Tova Byrne ’15, frequent shopper at boutiques like Oddz, said in a Facebook interview.

As chain stores continue to rise, there will still be a niche that only boutique stores can fill.

“I think there will always be a market for the kind of raw sartorial vibrancy that a store like Gap simply cannot provide,” Nic Amato ’16, self-proclaimed denim-on-denim enthusiast, said.