by Lynn Colburn
In the past year, 2019 Routt graduate, Alison (Martin) McGrane, realized a lifelong dream wasn’t what she wanted anymore, but soon imagined another dream which, within a year, culminated in the opening of Alison + Co Boutique, 1101 W. Morton, Suite A, in the green building on the hill directly behind Mossman State Farm on West Morton Avenue.
“I grew up in Jacksonville and was living in Manito,” says Alison, “which is where my husband’s family is from, and I moved to the house he had there.”
“I was in nursing school. I only had two years left on my bachelor’s degree when she (her daughter Delilah) was born,” says Alison, smiling at her daughter as she explains.
“I finished out another semester. And I thought, this is not what I want to do. At all! For my whole life nursing was what I wanted to do. Lots of my family are in the medical field. But then COVID changed my outlook. I didn’t want to be around it every day and have the possibility of bringing it home to her (indicating Delilah). I had a couple of friends who had small businesses. They did tumblers and made t-shirts and things.”
“I thought to myself, I love clothes and I love buying clothes for my daughter,” says Alison. “I have been online for a year now. I started last March 11. I really started out with just children’s clothes. And it took off very quickly! I then expanded and added a couple of women’s graphics and some cute boutique tops.”
Her customers began with family and friends in Jacksonville and her husband Noah’s family and friends in Manito and grew from there. “I remember getting my first out-of-state customer from North Carolina!” Alison says with a big grin. “I asked her, ‘how did you even find me? That is insane.’ And she said, ‘I don’t even know, I just found you on a rep group.’ I know a small business that makes these
wooden maps that you can color in as you get customers from each state. I need to get one. That would be so fun!”
It was an adventure to go from Manito to Jacksonville.
“I live in Arenzville now,” Alison explains. “Noah and I got married here Oct. 16 at The Warehouse 200, an awesome place owned by Lori Wankel. We actually moved the same weekend!” says Alison.
“It was crazy busy, and I had my online business to keep going, too.” In Manito was Alison was staying home with their daughter Delilah. The two were alone a lot with both COVID and Noah’s family working a lot. Much of Alison’s family is in the Jacksonville area, so the move was just what she needed to have a little extra support from family and some playmates for Delilah. Alison’s parents are here, and she has three brothers and one sister, and they all have young children some close to Delilah’s age and more expected soon. Noah looked for a job before the move, but has been unable to find one that fits, so he is still working in Pekin for now, at Alto Pekin, LLC, a corn processing plant. He is a boiler operator and works with its water and waste system.
“I am so lucky to have a husband who has supported my getting into this business and was willing to move here,” says Alison. “I put in everything into opening this location, so I didn’t have to take out a loan for it. And he helped every step of the way.”
“And now I’m here. I have a store!” Alison says enthusiastically. “We opened March 19! As a little girl who loved clothes, I never would have dreamed in a million years it would be possible! Even this past December I still didn’t think it would happen.”
“This is scary. It is a lot. But then I found this place and it needed a lot of work. But I thought the space was a practical size and it was ready for leasing right away.”
On February 20, Alison began working hard to transform the entire space into a store of which she can be proud. Her best friend started helping her. They started ripping down the wallpaper and then family and friends were helping almost every day. “My dad, my husband, my best friend’s husband, my brothers and so many all helped!” says Alison. “One month felt like a year. We tore out a wall. We painted the whole building. We replaced all the flooring. I painted all the doors and hand-stained all the trim. We painted the beam, and we replaced all the lighting. We did a lot! My dad built the dressing rooms and my checkout counter. And my mom watched Delilah a lot! She was a lifesaver.”
The boutique is wheelchair accessible and is a safe, kid-friendly space. It even has a children’s play area to keep them entertained while parents or grandparents’ shop. She plans to expand that area with a bookshelf with children’s books eventually.
More merchandise arrives daily. Besides children’s and women’s clothes, the boutique has accessories and shoes, glass mugs, jewelry, retro Bluetooth speakers and home decor.
“I am now carrying baby accessories, so I sell Itzy Ritzy, which my customers love!” says Alison. “I am also hoping to have a rack of really nice women’s dresses. I almost sold out of dresses the day of the opening. I will also be carrying maternity clothes, because women want to try on maternity clothes!” Other brands include Pete & Lucy, Laree + Co, and more.
Alison says she makes sure all her products are quality products or she doesn’t sell them. “I’m hoping to get to go to the Dallas market this year, time willing. But I do a lot of research before I buy anything and get amazing advice from an online group I belong to, with insider tips and connections which helps, and I try not to intrude on someone else’s business and try to sell things that are unique to the area.”
The boutique is open Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m-2 p.m.; Friday, noon-6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The boutique still has an online shop at www.alisonandcoboutique.com, a Facebook page and a TikTok. The boutique offers a VIP group which offers preorders weekly, giveaways and exclusive discounts.
Alison and Delilah invite everyone to come see ALISON + CO Boutique that created into such an inviting space! They just might have the perfect clothes and accessories for you right here in town!