By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GOSHEN — The shops in downtown Goshen are considered special gifts to Michele Fanfair-Steury and she’s the proud owner of one of them.
The Gift of G.A.B., Goshen’s Alternative Boutique, has been open for business since 2001.
She likes to shop for the one-of-a-kind items not found in the larger retail stores.
“I asked my husband (Paul Steury) where the cute boutique stores were located and he took me to Grape Road (in Mishawaka) where the big stores are,” Fanfair-Steury said, “No. I wanted the little stores where you go to find that one-of-a-kind cute something.”
After she moved to Goshen in 2000, Fanfair-Steury said she worked long hours at Goshen College and would unwind at home by creating jewelry.
“Some people would buy it and when there was sidewalk days, I would set up a place on the courtyard lawn,” she added.
She says a year after the couple was married, they found out a shop on the corner of Douglas and Main streets in Goshen was for rent. One thing led to another and she’s still in business 12 years later.
“My intent is to create my things and for other artists to put (their) things in the store,” Fanfair-Steury said. “I enjoy it. I’ve hosted more than 300 artists through the years, which is the hardest part (of being a store owner). I love the aspect of having other artists. It presents another look and avenue to the store. I’m trying to find balance.”
And the name of the boutique came about during a road trip with her husband.
“Paul and I were calling out names and I said ‘The Gift of Gab, Goshen’s alternative boutique,’ “ she said, smiling. “The name just fit.”
What sparks her creativity? She goes to auctions or sales. Fanfair-Steury uses vintage fabric to recreate pieces of furniture or redo throw pillows “to make them come alive or more exciting.”
She does “a little bit” of knitting with different types of yarns for unique items. No two jewelry pieces are the same.
“I love to make what I call ‘junk jackets,’ which are taking jackets already made or cool pieces of clothing that have personality and add character to them. I like to see who picks them,” Fanfair-Steury said. “With vintage furniture, I wonder who cared for it before I got it. To me, things take on their own little stories. It’s a gift and a curse to look at something old or like trash and see what I can do with it. “
She says her definition of success to some people is being defined as the mother of two children, the wife of Paul Steury and working at Goshen College until two years ago.
“The store has created an identity for me,” she said. “It’s a blanket of comfort for me.”
Even though there are struggles with the financial aspect of being a business owner in a small town, Fanfair-Steury focuses on providing the “unique something” for a customer.
“It’s cool to have stores where someone can make a piece just for you,” she said. “You can walk in and say ‘I’m looking for a piece that I can’t find elsewhere.’ I have cool stuff in here. I just want people to enjoy it. If you want something special, come to the Gift of G.A.B.”
Fanfair-Steury says she encourages local residents to support businesses in downtown Goshen.
“They don’t realize what they have. It’s a fun place,” she said. “We have a good thing going. I love to say ‘Come to Goshen to slow down and reconnect with people.’ I just love our town and take pride in Goshen.”