Laura Lyons recently opened a store in downtown Port Huron, her shop started online.
While other retailers are giving up their in-person store locations in favor of a cheaper online-only presence, one Port Huron businesswoman has found success by reversing the trend and taking her digital store into the real world.
Laura Lyon, owner of Papaya Branch Boutique, launched her online store in July 2017, selling and shipping trendy, reasonably-priced women’s clothes and accessories, using her home as a base for her operation. As business grew, Lyon says, she quickly realized she'd need an upgrade from her spare room to a dedicated warehouse space.
While Lyon was scouting Port Huron for a warehouse, she says, she had a realization: many of the locations she was looking at could easily become a storefront with a warehouse space in the back. And with the recent retail and restaurant boom in downtown Port Huron, Lyon decided to try her hand at a combination brick-and-mortar "real life" boutique and online shop presence.
The result? A beautiful shopping destination for women of all ages and sizes, tucked into a corner of revitalized downtown Port Huron. The shop itself is lovely, with casual and dressy outfits displayed among brightly-colored motivational signs and urban-chic architectural details.
Laura Lyons believes confidence makes anyone feel beautiful.
Lyon points out some of the unique touches she included to give her shop its unique vibe. There’s a farmhouse table, rescued from the Habitat ReStore and refinished, piled with pretty sweaters. The counter space is a set of kitchen cabinets re-purposed to display sparkly accessories (and her cash register).
"I love the floor," Lyon says, and it is very pretty, concrete painted with white flowers.
Lyon's vision for the boutique and her online shop is bold--she aims to make women feel confident.
"Our shop motto really says it all," Lyon says, pointing to one of the signs hanging in the shop. It reads, "The most beautiful thing a woman can wear is confidence."
To that end, Lyon's shop carries clothes that are pretty and stylish, but also comfortable, and she offers a range of sizes, from small to 3x, so every woman can have the same shopping experience.
Lyon says she knows her plan is working when she sees women shopping together from the same family, but different generations. For example, she says, she's seen mothers and daughters shopping together, and even grandmothers and granddaughters, and they're all able to find something they want to take home.
"It makes me so happy to see all of these women, spending time together doing something they enjoy, making memories," Lyon says.
For now, Lyon has plenty of space at the back of the space to maintain her online shop, while still offering a remarkably wide range of clothes and accessories in front. There are necklaces and bracelets, tote bags and tank tops, jeans and sweaters, and even a few flattering dresses.
"This dress even has pockets," Lyon says with a smile, holding up a long, floral-print dress.
It's the small, special details Lyon looks for when selecting merchandise for her shop. That's what brings repeat customer Fun accessories make a statement with any outfit.
Heather, 35, of Fort Gratiot, into the boutique again and again.
"No matter what I'm looking for, there's always something here," Heather says, sorting through a display of dark denim jeans.
"These jeans are so comfortable, and they fit perfectly," she explains. She'll buy the jeans in her size, a sparkly bracelet for a special dinner party, and a unique cross-body bag for her daughter, printed with pineapples. She likes the convenience of shopping at home at the online store, but often times Lyon’s Facebook live streams will feature an item she just has to see in person.
"I live stream something new on Facebook a few times a week," Lyon says. "It helps the online customers feel connected, and it's a lot of fun."
As if on cue, the UPS driver arrives with boxes of new spring merchandise.
The Papaya Branch Boutique is located at 326 Superior Mall in downtown Port Huron.
To see Lyon's live streams, and for information about upcoming events, follow Papaya Branch Boutique on Facebook at facebook.com/papayabranchboutique
Women should always feel pretty when they stop out the door.