BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Shoppers at S&J Unique Boutique are greeted with a friendly hello and the fragrance of locally made soaps and candles. Upon entering the small shop at 306 W. Sophia St., patrons first see a front room filled with handmade goods. From there, they can make their way through two more rooms of local products.
Owners Staci Cook and Jan O’Brien first met more than two decades ago and over time developed a friendship that turned into a business partnership.
“Our boys are friends and we’re neighbors, we were in parent groups at school and we just became friends and started doing crafts together,” Jan said. “We turned our love of something we like to do into a business.”
Last year, Staci’s husband Joel helped the two secure the location, one half of a building on West Sophia Street.
When they entered the building, there were no floors, pipes were exposed and the ceiling was hanging down.
“My husband and Joel and Staci and I put some sweat equity into it and got it up to par,” Jan said.
Originally, they planned to sell their crafts and handmade items exclusively, but quickly realized they would need more to start a business.
“When we started putting furniture in here and painting, we realized we’re going to need a lot of stuff to start the store,” Jan said.
The store opened on December 11 and in that time they have brought in more than 20 vendors. Over the next few weeks, they plan to bring in an additional five.
The items are all locally made. Only one vendor is not from Northwest Ohio, and everything has a handmade touch.
“We have a lot of great crafters in Northwest Ohio,” Jan said. “It’s top-notch quality products from our vendors.”
Everything from handcrafted soaps and candles to bracelets made from healing crystals line the shelves. Wood pens carved using a lathe, mugs with iconic Maumee scenery and holiday signs are located in the three-room shop.
“We are unique because we have something for everyone,” Staci said.
When searching for vendors, the two were able to find a good mix of products from friends, people they met at craft fairs and even through Facebook.
Staci and Jan have done their best to utilize every inch of space in the small shop and fill it with varying goods. Currently, they are still seeking vendors for anything, but are interested in more products for children, such as toys and baby clothes, and other homemade goods like body creams.
“We are open to just about any local vendor because you never know what people will be interested in,” Jan said. “We’re always open to new ideas and what to carry. If we don’t have it here, we’ll try and get it.”
In an effort to remain as vendor-friendly as possible, the duo currently has no vendor fee and does not require vendors to leave their stuff on the shelf for a specific period of time.
By having more flexible constraints and being open to new ideas, the two are able to thank the community that has supported them and their families for years.
“Everyone in Maumee was just so supportive of my husband, we just thought that Maumee was the best place for this,” Staci said. Her husband is the owner of Fast Lane Auto Care on Ford Street and helped the two with the basics of starting a business. “We’re very thankful we have this chance to have local vendors and businesses we can use.”
Jan and Staci plan to give away a small candle with each purchase every Saturday throughout February. In the future, they hope to offer other ways to thank customers with food and other small treats. If possible, they hope to expand the shop and offer classes, like candle making.
To see what else is in store, stop by on Monday, Thursday or Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Wednesday noon to 6:00 p.m. or Friday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The duo can also be found at snjboutique.net, call the shop at (419) 794-5676 or at S&J’s Unique Boutique on Facebook.