Best of Dayton 2022 winners
Heart Mercantile, a Dayton-centric, community-driven, boutique and gift shop in the Oregon District, has a variety of items from Dayton apparel and drinkware to stickers, cards and books.
“We like funny things obviously,” said Kait Laughlin, co-owner of Heart Mercantile. “We like to laugh. We like things that are a little edgier than your normal boutique store.”
Laughlin recently noted customers have been requesting items focusing on reproductive rights and pop culture. Due to the wide variety of items offered, she believes customers prefer to shop in-store.
“We love people coming in, getting to talk to them, getting them to see the entire experience of coming down here to the store,” Laughlin said.
She also mentioned Heart Mercantile has a lot of people following them on social media that don’t live in the Dayton area.
“They like the sidewalk signs, but they’ll also come in and (say) ‘I saw this and I had to visit when I was in town,’ so it’s always a really good feeling,” Laughlin said.
The small business environment is on the upswing, according to Laughlin. She said there are tons of small businesses opening weekly and she thinks Dayton does a good job supporting them.
In exchange, Heart Mercantile supports organizations that are doing good things for the community.
“We try to support the community as much as possible and our customers respond to that which is always really lovely,” Laughlin said.
She explained they have ongoing initiatives like the heart donation bin near the front door accepting feminine hygiene products, bras and baby items like diapers, wipes and formula.
“We work with several different organizations to get those items where they need to go, not only in the community, but the bras go to an organization called Free the Girls, which sends them to underprivileged communities and they repurpose them for different things,” Laughlin said.
She said it feels like an obligation for a local business like theirs to give back to the community.
Another boutique putting the community and people first is TheZe DealZ- A Thrifty Boutique in Dayton.
Zontaye Richardson, owner of TheZe DealZ said, “It’s more about people than clothing.”
“The reason why I started was because I didn’t see any quality thrift stores in my community,” Richardson added. “I’m the type of person that if I see a need or something it’s like, “Why not fill it?”
Richardson said in the last five years she has created more than a thrift store. She described TheZe DealZ as a community gathering place. TheZe DealZ has hosted workout classes, concerts, comedy shows, fashion shows and much more.
“It’s been everything and more than what I expected,” Richardson said. “Just the people that we’ve met. The lives that we’ve changed.”
She said their customer service and initiative to put people first has encouraged people to keep coming back.
“We’ve created a space where people want to come here,” Richardson said. “People are traveling here from out of state.”
TheZe DealZ is also seeing a rise in customers shopping online, Richardson said. She explained since the coronavirus pandemic, she has been selling her inventory via Facebook Live. TheZe DealZ has customers from 35 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.
“I feel like thrifting is on the rise because people are more conscious about sustainability,” Richardson said. “They’re more conscious about the environment, especially younger people.”
TheZe DealZ offers a variety of donated, gently used women’s clothing with the majority priced less than $10. Whatever is not sold is donated back to the community, Richardson said. The boutique has other items like children’s clothes.
Blue Finery, located less than 20 miles from downtown Dayton in Brookville, is another women’s boutique providing affordable clothing.
Tommy Skinner, who owns the boutique with his wife, Maggie, said nothing in the store is over $40.
“A lot of times when people come in it’s all about the prices,” Skinner said.
He explained Blue Finery is able to sell boutique-style clothing at a lower price than others because they have low overhead costs. Skinner said he has owned the building the boutique is in for 12 years. In addition to owning the building, the family does not have any employees. Skinner said his wife runs the boutique with the help of their daughters and her mother.
“For our store, people like to come in because the atmosphere is nice and inviting,” Skinner said.
His favorite part of owning the boutique is getting to spend time with his family. He mentioned his two daughters, Brooklynn and Breanna, really enjoy it.
“A lot of customers are from around here and occasionally you will get the customers from out of town,” Skinner said. “It’s nice to have your own business.”
Skinner agreed with the other two boutique owners that there is a push to shop local and whenever there is an opportunity his family enjoys giving back to the community through the schools.
All three boutiques have expanded in the last three years with hopes to continue in the future. Heart Mercantile moved to 601 E. Fifth St. in Dayton, across from Trolley Stop and in between Puff Apothecary and Clash. TheZe DealZ is located in Suite C at 3183 W. Siebenthaler Drive in Dayton. Blue Finery is located at 219 Market Street in Brookville.
For more information about the boutiques, visit their social media pages.