A boutique with its roots in an online-only operation blossomed into a Brainerd storefront.
And that idea of fostering blooms is part of the boutique’s operation in working with other small businesses. Bells and Blossom Boutique is owned by Angel Martin and Ashley Geike. The two women brought their vision for the store in a transformation of the former Crow Wing Food Co-op building at the corner of Washington and Eighth streets in Brainerd.
Inside, the boutique offers clothing aimed at all ages and sizes. There is a focus on items that are comforting and comfortable, with the ability to dress clothing up or down whether for work or a casual outing or working from home. Tops, skirts, and jeans were all notably soft. The boutique also carries plus size brands. The boutique carries jewelry, including a Minnesota necklace, a wide variety of colorful earrings along with necklaces and bracelets, as well as gift items, mugs, and sunglasses. They have items on consignment from local artists. There are honey sticks to stir and sweeten coffee or tea, adult coloring books and Warmies — microwavable slippers.
“We’ve been dabbling into home decor and coffee and teas. We really love using other small businesses as our wholesalers,” Martin said. “... We really love using other small businesses as our wholesalers, that’s something that we really felt passionate about. We have a girl who is a stay-at-home mom who does our graphic T design for us, our coffee cup design for us. ... We love the small business vibe. We love supporting other small businesses.”
One of the benefits in working with a designer is the ability for Martin and Geike to get something that is unique to their boutique while they can also support another mom on the business front.
A sign inside the shop reads, “Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.”
Bells and Blossom started in 2019 online and grew a Facebook following. Martin and Geike have known each other for years, they’ve played softball together and used to work together at Christmas Point.
“As it turns out the pandemic was really great for online sales and that kind of just opened the door for us to be able to expand,” Martin said.
They expanded to a storefront in Pequot Lakes. Martin said tracking their customer base found 80-90% of people making a special trip and driving to them from Brainerd and Baxter. Others noted they wished they could stop in but weren’t ever going that way. The opportunity came knocking to move to Brainerd before they even announced they were looking around and Geike saw the former co-op location as a landing spot.
“We were both looking and then I drove past it and said, ‘What about the old food co-op building?’” Geike said.
She said it was the perfect location, complete with parking lot. When looking at the exterior, they both saw the potential and wanted to renovate it to fit the boutique’s look with a brighter white farmhouse look. Geike came up with the idea of covering the windows so the transformation of the interior was hidden, but colorful balloons filled the windows, promising something pretty was coming. With a fresh interior, pastel colors, decorative displays and a shiny floor, the boutique has given the former co-op food store a new purpose. The building has housed a few different enterprises over the years including a gas station, a Cousins Subs restaurant, and most recently the co-op before it moved to larger quarters on Laurel Street.
After the initial opening in June, employee Cassie Youso said foot traffic to check out the new site has been strong, with jeans, strappy tanks and mugs all among popular items thus far. For Martin and Geike, the store provides a chance to put faces to their regular online shoppers. Those customers can still have items shipped for free or pick up their orders in the store.
They wanted the shop itself to fit real life and be welcoming. Both mothers of three young children — Geike is expecting her fourth child — they created an area in the back where kids could be comfortable and play. Comfort is a key word for the business. They wanted jeans that were soft and would stay in place through bending to pick up a child and standing again.
“As working moms who bring our kiddos to work with us a lot, I think that’s kind of what we live in — super comfortable clothing that we can dress up or dress down,” Martin said.
Martin previously had a couple racks of boutique clothing at her home-based hair salon for fun but wanted to expand. When coming up with a name, Martin played around with words linking her love of doing wedding hair with the whole theme of blossoming.
Geike said the price points range from $20 to $32 for the most part with a goal of making things affordable. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Both Geike and Martin said a benefit of expanding from being solely online into a physical storefront is being able to connect and actually see and meet customers they’ve only known digitally.
“We both love that,” Martin said.
“They are fantastic,” said customer Elizabeth Ignaszewski of Martin and Geike. As for the store, Ignaszewski said the atmosphere is amazing and the women are some of the nicest people she’s ever met. When shopping and trying on clothes previously, Ignaszewski said they made the experience stand out for being so good.
“Everything about them is so uplifting all the time,” she said of the shop’s owners. “ … It’s a great place for a mom with kids.”