Women entrepreneurs open The Gray Barn Boutique in Fitchburg
FITCHBURG — The chic boutique that recently opened in the city is more than the culmination of months of hard work, it’s the realization of years of dreams in the making for two local women.
Nestled between Black Hydra Tattoo and Pammy’s Place in a bustling mall on Airport Road, The Gray Barn Boutique is the passion project of co-owners Alyssa Buono and Kateri Forte, who launched their boutique with a soft opening on August 27 that drew customers. crowds. of supporters, including family, friends and buyers.
Fall-colored pieces for women, including skirts, blouses, t-shirts, crop tops, jeans and ankle boots, adorn clothes racks and walls. Carefully selected inventory such as bracelets, jewelry, home and bath products, children’s activities, gifts, and snacks are carefully displayed around the clean, modern space with plenty of natural light.
Visitors of all ages thronged to the soft opening last weekend, checking out the merchandise. A tray of cookies was laid out for people to enjoy with mimosas. Two fitting rooms allow customers to try on clothes, and a section of the store is dubbed the Bad Word Corner and displays adult-centric items with a tongue-in-cheek sign that reads “proceed at your own risk.”
“They’ve had this vision for years and seeing it come to fruition is pretty amazing, we’re so proud,” said Forte’s father, Jim Arsenault, who stopped by the opening with his wife. He said he felt emotional entering the shop and had a “wow” moment when he saw how everything came together.
“So many people here have been with them since day one and their LuLaRoe days. All the work they’ve done to get to this moment, it just shows what you can do,” he said proudly.
Sterling resident Cathie Martin, whose late sister was friends with Forte, chose a lightweight blouse in a pretty pattern to wear on an upcoming cruise.
“I’ve been following these girls for years,” the college professor said, praising the fact that Buono and Forte often model the clothes themselves and have “real people” modeling for them.
The 65-year-old said that as a “new senior” she appreciates this variety of styles presented in their store and online offerings, “things for all ages”, and that “the diversity of clothing is unbelievable”.
Buono is a graduate of Leominster High School who attended UMass Boston and now lives in Fitchburg with her husband, Mike, and their two children, Mikey, 6, and Madalie, 1.
Forte grew up in Worcester and attended Burncoat High School and Quinsigamond Community College before working in retail management and banking. She calls Templeton home these days and has a 6-year-old son, Connor, with her husband Dan. They have a dozen pets between their two households – five dogs, six cats and a bird.
“Obviously we are pet lovers with 12 animals between us,” Buono joked.
The duo became quick friends five years ago and decided to launch The Gray Barn Online Boutique in April 2020 – just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world – offering clothes for real women of all shapes. and sizes.
“We both had a passion for entrepreneurship and fashion and our personalities and strengths complement each other, so we decided to join forces,” Forte said.
Their business savvy paid off, and since then they’ve gained quite a loyal following through online sales and posting real-life photos of their kids and families that highlight the struggle between work and life. personal life that mothers often know so well.
Martin explained how down-to-earth the two female entrepreneurs are, noting that their “live sales are hysterical” with children and dogs often roaming the frame.
In addition to active groups and posts on Facebook and Instagram, once they could, Buono and Forte began hosting groups in their homes, which allowed them to meet their customers and tap into what they are looking for.
“We have a wonderful local clientele here in the North Central Mass area. “We love the confidence and glow we see on our women’s faces when they try something on and see how beautiful they look in the mirror.”
As the business grew, their need and desire to grow grew, which inspired them to open the shop.
“We had outgrown our space and decided it was the perfect time to take the next step of a brick and mortar,” Forte said.
Customers really seem to be responding to their mission to select pieces specifically designed for women that flatter and at the same time give a boost of confidence.
“We work very hard to be an inclusive community that welcomes all shapes and sizes to our store,” they said.
A grand opening will take place at the boutique on September 16-17, during which customers can expect new products and goody bags, and the tech-savvy duo even have their own Gray Barn Boutique app to shop. purchases. The women said they were grateful for the support from their village and that “everyone is so excited” for this new chapter.
“I can’t tell you how many customers have offered to help us get the store ready,” Buono said. “We are really pleased with the reaction.”
For more information, visit http://thegraybarnboutique.com and follow The Gray Barn Boutique on Facebook and Instagram.