MONROE, Conn. -- In less than a year, Lori Miller and Courtney DeLallo, founders of The Mason Jar in Monroe, have created a gathering place for women (and men!) looking for unique gifts you can't find at the mall. They've also started a clothing line, Northeast State of Mind. Not bad for two women who had never owned a store before.
Because both Miller and DeLallo grew up in town -- Miller is now a Fairfield resident while DeLallo lives locally -- they knew what the area needed, though each had done their research (Miller has a marketing background; DeLallo did retail while also working as a hairdresser).
In fact, say the owners -- who also happen to be sisters -- they were overwhelmed by the initial response when they first opened last October. "It was the start of the holiday season and we were bombarded," said Miller who says "the crazy busy-ness" ended up teaching them a lot, including what and when to stock.
Their biggest lesson? Women want clothes that are "comfy casual." And, they want things that are original. It's why most of their items are sourced from Etsy as well as from local vendors. Also worth noting: The majority of home goods and accessories are USA-made.
Customers also like personalization, which is why their boutique features signs and various items stamped with the Trumbull/Monroe/Newton zip codes and town names.
And baby products sell, a relatively new entry for them.
They also learned that, going forward, they need to think at least two seasons ahead.
In general, however, they've been right on target with what their customers want, most likely, they say, because they know the area so well. "Nothing like this existed before we opened here," said DeLallo. "We knew we had a market."
Which is why they're so excited about their new clothing line which they came up with themselves and which will be in the store within the next two weeks. Already, they've gotten a ton of pre-orders of shirts and hoodies with sayings that include "Northeast State of Mind" and "Find Your Wild."
The line, which also includes bracelets, campfire mugs, pint glasses and stickers, fits in with their rustic chic theme and features a forest of trees on the back of each shirt. "We wanted to envelop a feeling, not just be partial to Connecticut but to all of the Northeast," said DeLallo. If all goes well, they will eventually expand the line and hopefully have it sold in other retail outlets. "That's the dream," said Miller.
Being the youngest of six girls, the two seem to have a knack for knowing their customers. They even have their mom working with them, making the store a true family affair.
As for their upcoming one year mark in October, Miller and DeLallo say they are planning an anniversary sale and hopefully a party. And, who knows? Possibly expanding down the road, though both agree there's no rush for that. One thing you can definitely expect to find: Lots of colorful mason jars that are found, not just in the decor, but in fun glassware that proclaims "I belong to the the drinking class" and "Get your shine on."
After, all, says Miller: "Everything is better in a mason jar."
The Mason Jar is located at 266 Main St., (203) 880-5855, www.themasonjarmonroe.com/ .