[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
BOARDMAN — Amy Abruzere, owner of Grey Boutique, is focused on ways to keep the boutique “fresh and new” and provide customers with a unique shopping experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fashion boutique at 1393 Boardman-Canfield Road celebrated its third anniversary in October. Since opening, Grey Boutique has created a custom clothing label, “Lyla X Louise,” and plans to launch a signature fragrance, “GB Original,” a collaboration with Avant Garden Boutique in Poland.
Abruzere said as a small-business owner, she knows the importance of small businesses supporting each other.
“The money stays local and just makes for a very great atmosphere for our children to grow up in, and that's what I hope for,” she said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abruzere said she was about a week away from signing a lease to open another store.
“That quickly got pushed back due to the circumstances,” she said. “So when I think of growth, now, it's more about getting more involved in the community, obviously, as much charity work that we can do, but also from a business perspective, growing online and social media, and just expanding to a larger audience. That's kind of where our energy lies.”
Grey Boutique is known for supporting local organizations such as The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and Apple Breast Cancer Warrior Foundation. Abruzere added that Grey Boutique’s main form of advocacy is focused on raising awareness and raising funds for pediatric cancer and brain tumors.
“It's really important for me to give back to the community who supports us. So I love to do it. It's kind of where my passion lies. I'm always thinking, you know, there's got to be something bigger out there,” she said.
In addition to a new fragrance and philanthropic efforts, Grey Boutique is launching holiday shopping early this year.
The boutique is closed on Sundays to walk-in customers but is offering private shopping experiences for a handful of people that can be booked for a two-hour time slot.
Abruzere, who has a degree in fashion merchandising and business administration, had a 20-year corporate career before opening Grey Boutique. She worked for L Brands for 17 years, then was a district manager for Bath & Body Works and ran 34 stores.
“[I] decided to leave the corporate life because, one, my husband's job at the time was very intense with travel and my travel with 34 stores was pretty significant, and, we have two boys,” she said. “I thought, you know, I always actually dreamed of owning my own boutique and at the time, it felt like the right thing to do to give me a little bit more flexibility.”
Abruzere explained the name “Grey Boutique” is an ode to her previous career and a representation of her personality.
“For years, I had the same regional vice president who would write on my reviews, ‘You're successful in your role because you live in the gray. You treat people as individuals and not so black and white.’
“So when I was thinking of a name for my boutique, I knew that I wanted a place where people felt different [and] the experience was different,” she said.
All of Grey Boutique’s merchandise is hand-picked by Abruzere and her assistant. With vendors from all over the globe, Abruzere said it’s hard to pinpoint a specific style or age demographic that Grey Boutique falls under.
“There's not one target customer. The majority of my customers are between like in a 30/40 range. However, we have something available for high schoolers and we have something available for. you know, grandmothers,” she said.
“It kind of comes from my own personal style, like, I would wear everything in the store. If I won't wear it, I won't put it in the store. I just think it's how you style it on the individual that makes a difference,” she added.
Grey Boutique is open 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday and has an online shop.