Tiny Chai Boutique in downtown Grand Rapids bursts with new, vintage fashions, jewelry

It's not much bigger than a walk-in closet, but Sarah Ables aims to have Chai Boutique become a women's go-to store for more than just the fashions and jewelry that adorn the glass walls and vintage tables.

At just under 200 square feet in downtown's new Shops at Monroe Center and Division (MoDiv, 40 Monroe Center), Chai Boutique also offers vintage painted furniture finds, gift items, hair accessories and more. Surrounded by glass walls that let in daylight and allow shoppers to see through to nearby shops, Chai Boutique feels open, yet cozy.

Ables launched the business in February in a 900-square-foot space at 1120 Knapp St. NE, but struggled with having to order merchandise just to fill the racks. In the smaller MoDiv space, Ables says she can order very small quantities of items, which allows her to keep the store new and fresh as items sell and new merchandise arrives.

"I only buy about six of any clothing item, then when it's gone I order something new so I don't have everybody walking around Grand Rapids wearing the same thing," Ables says. "And I have budget-friendly prices; I don't have what people usually think of as boutique prices."

Ables offers a number of locally crafted items, such as Britteny Young's magnets and coasters decorated with illustrations from vintage books, and jewelry that combines new and vintage pieces collected and re-set by mother/daughter team Dawn Orr and Jen Bumstead.

"I'm loving the concept of MoDiv and that I have a smaller space," says Ables, who spent 12 years as a visual merchandiser for Art Van and sold her own painted antique furniture at Blue Door Home Design. "It was my dream to own a shop for as long as I can remember. I'd like to grow it right downtown where we are and grow the MoDiv location."

Hours: Mon., Weds., Fri., Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tues., Thurs., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: Sarah Ables, Chai Boutique
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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