BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — When Staci Cook and Jan O’Brien first started working on crafts together, they were neighbors with young kids. Now, those children have grown up and the crafts have turned into a business: S&J Unique Boutique.
The two women had a dream to open their own shop years ago, and when the dream became a reality, they were quick to fill their space on West Sophia Street in Maumee with their own handmade items and pieces from other local crafters.
Quickly, their original space became too small, so they knew they needed to move elsewhere. They occupied one half of a small building, but they were hanging items from the ceiling and storing others on the floor.
“It was crazy. We had to get creative to find space and we had to turn vendors away, so it was necessary to move,” Staci said.
The move itself wasn’t far. The women found themselves right next door at 302 W. Sophia St., filling several rooms with a variety of items from local vendors.
“The Maumee area has a lot of great craft people. I think people just don’t know how many really talented people we have here,” Jan said.
Lining the walls are handmade and locally-made items to appeal to everyone, which are perfect for the gift-giving season.
Small treats, sauces, dressings, honey and more edible goods are well-stocked in the store.
In another space, hand-sewn baby and children’s pieces line the walls. Another shelf is dedicated to pet-related products.
Yet another area is covered in sports paraphernalia, from local to professional teams.
There’s handcrafted jewelry, air fresheners, candles, wax melts, lip balms and custom signage, too, among other pieces.
“You can come in and get things to make your dinner with, or keep warm with a sweatshirt, or grab a candle,” Jan said of the inventory. “Probably 80 percent of our stuff is local and handmade.”
Very few of the 60 vendors in the store rely on distributors for items, she said.
The new space, which S&J moved into in November of 2022, is quickly filling up with the hundreds of items crafted by the local makers. To celebrate the business, the Maumee Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting on August 30.
Chamber members, along with city officials and family members, showed up to the event, purchasing the local goods and meeting the business owners.
Maumee Mayor Rich Carr congratulated the two women on their business, stating he was impressed by the items they had in stock as well as their support of other local crafters.
“We have a lot of new businesses coming in, all over the city, which is nice, but what’s special about this place is it’s a small family business,” Carr said. “That’s been the heart of our community for years.”
In order to get the business off the ground, the two have been working hard over the years, alongside their family members.
“Our husbands are lifesavers. They do a lot of filling in when we need them, hanging stuff, fixing printers, cashing people out. They step in when they need to,” Staci said.
Without the support of family and friends, the two aren’t sure they would have been able to open the business, but now that they’re selling their own items, along with hundreds of other pieces from local makers on consignment, the relationship with their customers is also vital to the business.
Connecting with those customers is one of their favorite parts of the business, Staci said.
“We have met a lot of amazing people through this business. All kinds of people from every walk of society and it’s been really nice,” Jan added.
The makers, however, are what keeps the business going.
“I just want to make sure that we thank all of our makers for what they do. Without them, we would not have a beautiful boutique like we do,” Staci noted.
Those makers have brought a variety of pieces and inspiration into the business, they said.
They’ve also helped to host classes and bring in hands-on activities for customers.
“We do classes here. We work with other crafters to host classes. We have someone coming to do a candle class, we have paint classes, we’ve done oyster shucking for pearl necklaces. It’s so fun,” Staci said.
The business, which has been open on Wednesdays through Saturdays, will now be open on Sundays, too, Jan said.
Occasionally, on Sundays, the business will have “make it, take it” opportunities, allowing customers to participate in creating their own items in the shop, including room fresheners, painting and more.
To keep customers coming in and bring attention to the makers, it takes a lot of work for the women, who both hold positions outside of S&J, but are happy to find time in their busy schedules to run the business.
“If you want to do something, you really have to dive in to do it. Running a business takes a lot of work, but it’s been great,” Jan said.
S&J Unique Boutique is located at 302 W. Sophia St. in Maumee and is open from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Fridays, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 3:00 p.m. on Sundays. The store will be closed on Christmas Eve.
Customers and potential makers are advised to stop in to see what offers are available to them. Future classes and events are also listed on S&J’s Unique Boutique Facebook page.