It started with a passion for European fashion and a shopping experience unlike any other. Now that this women’s boutique is in a new location, the commitment to customers keeps growing.
Rockford’s Edgebrook shopping center holds a wide selection of locally owned businesses and unique offerings. When paired with events like farmers markets and live music performances, it creates a welcoming community.
Amidst this environment, the owners of a favorite Rockford boutique find themselves right at home. Since relocating to Edgebrook earlier this year, Eurostyle+, 1649 N. Alpine Road, is making a splash.
“We loved being downtown, but we picked Edgebrook because it’s like a little community there,” says Mary Swaab, who owns the store with her husband, Robert. “You’ve got music and food, you can park easily and they’re expanding into other businesses to give it more variety. It’s a perfect, comfortable fit for us and still gives us that sort of community feeling that we liked about downtown.”
It’s also an experience that plays into the company’s approach to fashion. As a specialist in clothing from small-scale European ateliers, Eurostyle+ caters to women who want something different in their wardrobe. With niche brands and sizes ranging from 0 to 26, the store invites women to make their fashion personal.
Among neatly arranged racks of clothes and displays illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows shining with daylight, a setup of couches invites customers to relax and enjoy their shopping experience, perhaps with a complimentary soft drink and help from an eager sales associate.
“When I go shopping, I want to be able to have a conversation and talk about my style or what I like,” says Swaab. “Or, if I don’t want to have that conversation, I don’t have to. Our team knows how to have that conversation with a customer, how to explain the brands we carry, what the size and fit are like and that brand’s story. Delivering that message develops a good rapport with the customer so they understand what our store consists of. Good communication, good people skills and good personalities all add up to success.”
That same combination has been part of Swaab’s brand since she launched Eurostyle+ in 2014. The world traveler and founder of Colorlab Cosmetics in Rockford spent years culling European boutiques for stylish wares.
Eventually, she sensed a great business opportunity was in the making.
“Every time we took a trip, I would buy a lot of my clothes on European vacations and people used to compliment me left and right,” says Swaab. “We started saying, ‘OK, well, let’s take a look and perhaps we can become importers of some of the brands.’”
Swaab started by finding suppliers in places like Amsterdam, Italy, Germany and France. She sold wholesale to American boutiques, but eventually she developed an idea for her own store. So, in 2017 she opened a brick-and-mortar location at 510 E. State St. in downtown Rockford. It quickly became a place where style and soul intertwined, even when vision for the business would evolve.
“It’s progressed a lot. We now carry U.S. brands, too, but we still import many brands from Europe, so there are a lot of unique offerings,” says Swaab. “People who love to shop and feel something – that process of feeling a fabric, trying something on – it’s an experience.”
Relocating from downtown wasn’t on Swaab’s mind, but as fate has a way of doing, opportunity came knocking at her door late last year.
“We were located behind 510 Threads, and the owner decided that she was closing her business,” says Swaab. “She rented the location out to Salvaged by Sonya, and it was a great opportunity for us to move across town.”
In some ways, Swaab realized, moving also made good business sense. A recent trend of retailers coming and going downtown meant the clientele and their shopping habits were changing, too.
The decision to land in Edgebrook, specifically, came with several pluses: a community of small-business owners, a strong clientele and a space that was virtually move-in ready.
“We wanted to find a space that didn’t take a lot of build-out and work because we felt that you could easily miss a whole season of selling when that happens,” says Swaab.
In all, the move took just more than a month, in an in-between season. When the downtown location closed on Feb. 28 this year, store manager Lisa Hughes and a team of four started moving inventory, setting up displays and preparing for customers. They opened in Edgebrook on April 1.
“The team did all the work,” says Swaab. “If it wasn’t for them, the store would not have opened in a month.”
The new store melds together new experiences and many of the qualities women have come to love about Eurostyle+, including quality service, unique brands and fresh styles. Alongside fashion products, shoppers can also find gift items, some of them imported and others sourced in America.
Teacups made in Turkey sit alongside candles and items designed by a local artist.
“We are always open to collaborating with local artists for either jewelry, small paintings or gift items,” says Swaab. “We love to help those trying to get into retail, because sometimes that can be a struggle.”
Additionally, hard-to-find items like handmade jewelry from Israel and silk scarves made in the Netherlands have joined the constantly changing inventory.
“We have wearable art, some of which are actual reproductions of beautiful paintings from Van Gogh and Monet,” says Swaab. “Handbags are coming in from Italy, from a small tannery that makes them. So, we’re always looking for something nice and unique to add to the offerings.”
Swaab imparts her wisdom to budding entrepreneurs with an open heart. Meticulously plan, remain adaptable and surround yourself with mentors and companions who believe in your journey, she says. Persevere in the face of trials and support the broader business community.
“Planning, conceptualizing your idea, execution and timeline are important,” says Swaab.
“Sometimes your timeline doesn’t work, but you can’t get discouraged. There’s always stumbling blocks, ebbs and flows, ups and downs, so you must be able to work through all of that and surround yourself with all of the right people. If you have a dream, go after it.”
Looking back on this transition to a new location, Swaab finds one factor has made all the difference.
“I try to surround myself with all of the right people,” says Swaab. “You have to create your own community of people who can be helpful and whom you can rely on. You help them and they help you. Everybody has something to contribute.”