There’s a vibe inside Sunday Morning Boutique, one of Ottawa’s newest women’s clothing stores.
It’s a sassy kind of energy that’s often responsible for the occasional dance-off in the aisles, and where women can just be themselves. And no matter their size, they can feel beautiful.
Judgment has no place here.
The business was inspired a few years ago by a group of friends — women who wanted to empower their customers by lifting them up. Their idea was to make shopping fun again by offering fashionable women’s clothing in sizes ranging from extra small to 3X, as well as accessories, jewelry and other boutique items that couldn’t be found just anywhere.
Founding members included longtime friends Bethany Crawford, Danielle Jolliff, Rachel Morsett, Rebekah McCurdy and Rejeana Mustain, who launched the online boutique in April 2018. The idea, they said, came from their mutual passion for fashion, shopping and empowering each other. Their first event — a pop-up boutique at Main Attraction, a downtown Ottawa salon — was an overwhelming success that convinced them they were on the right track.
From there, the business continued attracting so many new customers, the women decided to tackle their biggest challenge yet — opening a pop-up boutique during the 2018 Ol’ Marais River Run car show.
“We rented the space next door to this, where The Goat Milk Soap Store is now,” Morsett said. “We rented just for three days because we knew we had to be on Main Street for the car show. It went really, really well. Last year was record-breaking numbers, and crazy amounts of people downtown, and so we knew we wanted to do at least that this year. And then we talked about how we had to pop up and then tear everything down, and how much work it was, and we were like, ‘You know what, I think we’re ready to sign the lease and move in.’ ”
In January, the women leased a small office space in the Masonic Temple building and opened there a month later. Known as the showroom, the small 250-square-foot suite was open just twice a week for online customers to pick up their orders and try on items. They remained there until September, when they moved into their current location at 202 S. Main St., where they have more than 3,000 square feet of retail space.
“We used to have all of our inventory at our houses, which was insane,” said Maggie Schmidt, the newest member of the group, which is now four members strong after Crawford and Jolliff stepped away because of other commitments. “So the thought was, let’s just open an office space. We can have shoppers twice a week, and put all of our inventory together, and if we want people to shop, we can. And then it just turned into people were coming to shop every Monday and Saturday, and wanting to know when we were going to be open. We’re opening for people to come and look when we’re not open, so why not just go for it?”
“It’s always been the dream to be in an actual storefront,” McCurdy said. “We were just scaling up, and being fiscally responsible ... We haven’t borrowed any money to do this, at least to me, personally, that was really important ... it was the perfect location.”
The new brick-and-mortar retail space features a crisp green and white checkered tile floor and spacious dressing rooms, which were added in the three weeks prior to opening. There’s also rack after rack of clothing, accessories, jewelry and other special little finds begging to be discovered.
And so far, the boutique has been well-received by customers and other downtown businesses.
“It’s been amazing,” Mustain said. “We have a lot of foot traffic — which is one of the things that played into being down here — people are downtown eating dinner on Main Street. I was down here (on a) Monday night, and I had maybe four people just happened to walk by, and (went), ‘Oh, what is this' and came in. ”
The easy, breezy name for the business, Sunday Morning Boutique, evolved from the women’s weekly Sunday-morning gatherings at a local coffee shop. It’s there in a back meeting space where a larger group of women affectionately called “The Lady Squad” gather to talk about fashion, family and whatever else might be on their minds at the moment.
“As a mom, there’s little me time,” McCurdy said. “This is dedicated time where you 100% come as you are. It’s a time of support, where we support each other.”
“It’s been a place where pregnancies were announced, engagements were announced,” Schmidt said. “It’s been everything. It’s been our therapy. There have been lots of laughs and lots of tears.”
And like the group, the boutique is open to any woman wanting to just be accepted for who they are, whether they might be a size 2 or a 3X. They also offer a variety of fashionable plus-size women’s clothing — a niche that hasn’t always offered many choices or styles.
“With the four of us shopping, we all have different tastes, and we all can play on each other’s styles,” Schmidt said. “We pick out things that don’t look like they would work together, but it all works.”
While some customers come in to shop for something new, others stop simply to catch up.
“We want a sense of community,” Schmidt said. “We want this to be a place where you can feel good.”
Sunday Morning Boutique is open from 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The boutique can be found on Facebook, Instagram and online at www.thesmbshop.com.
“If I had to say one thing, it’s a resounding thank you to everyone,” McCurdy said. “The downtown businesses have just been so overwhelmingly supportive, and everyone has made us feel so welcome.”