There is a new women’s clothing store in Merrickville. Hazel’s Boutique is owned by Julia Provost, who is also the owner of Abel Mountain, next door. She took over the store at the beginning of October from Marilyn and Tim Boyce, who ran Portside Boutique for the last seven years.
“I’ve been shop neighbours with Marilyn and Tim who owned Portside, and she had kind of hinted at wanting to retire,” Julia remembers. “And, one day, I jokingly said I should just take over for you, because I’ll miss your store.”
Soon after, Marilyn and Tim came to her with a rough outline of some numbers. Julia talked it over with her husband, Carlos, and decided to go for it. “It just made sense.” Marilyn and Tim retired at the end of September and Julia opened up Hazel’s Boutique the second week of October. It was a seamless transition, as Marilyn was able to set her up with many of the brands she has worked with for years, and she even took over some of the stock Marilyn had already ordered. Julia says the first few weeks in business were good, especially since they didn’t have a sign in the door for most of October.
Hazel’s Boutique is named after Julia’s ten-year old daughter, Hazel. “Abel is my son, and Hazel is my daughter, so it just made sense that they each have their own store,” she says. Hazel loves having a store named after her, “She’s always like: are we going to Hazel’s? With a little giggle in her voice.”
Opening a new store during a pandemic has definitely been a challenge for Julia. The most difficult part has been getting enough stock, because supply is down due to COVID-19, even with local and Canadian brands. “You’ll spend hours sourcing something, and then people will get back to you and half the stuff you’ve spent time sourcing isn’t available.”
Julia and her three employees also spend a lot of time cleaning the store to make sure it is safe for customers to shop. They sanitize everything every 20-30 minutes and limit the number of people in the store to four. They also steam all the clothes every time someone tries something on, to make sure the items are safe for the next shopper.
Despite the challenges, Julia says the local support has been amazing. “People either liking or sharing your posts on Facebook, shopping in your store, trying to shop more local. COVID has really brought the community together,which is nice.”
Portside Boutique always shut down over the winter, and Julia is planning on taking advantage of this to make the store her own. They will be closed in January, February, and the beginning of March to do renovations. “It will be a lot of work for my poor husband,” Julia laughs. “He’s a contractor, so at Abel Mountain he’s built 90% of the displays. Anything I dream up, he will build it for me.”
Julia admits that running two stores, especially during a pandemic, is a lot of work. But she keeps going because she feels it is in her blood. “I always really liked Marilyn and Tim, and I’ve always sort of had a vision for how I would like this place to look. So I thought: why not try it?”
Hazel’s Boutique will remain very similar to Portside, in that it will focus on women’s clothing and accessories; but it is clear that Julia is looking forward to putting her own personal touch on the shop. “I’m excited to see it come to life,” she says.
Hazel’s Boutique is open at 312 St. Lawrence Street, from 10am-4pm, Sunday-Thursday, and 10am-5pm on Friday and Saturday.
Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times