Tell us about Blackbird Boutique.
Blackbird carries anything from new vintage-inspired clothing to bohemian to more timeless, elegant classic pieces. I try to have quite a range in a small space, and for a range of ages too.
I spend a lot of time researching and networking with other designers and going to markets to find sustainable, ethical, fair trade clothing and accessories. I think it’s important to understand where your clothes come from and who made them. We carry a lot of things made from natural fibers. They’re more durable, and require less water to manufacture. A couple of brands I carry are zero waste. They use scrap materials that larger clothing manufacturers would have to get rid of, even whole bolts if there’s one little flaw, because they use machines. These are handmade, and if the fabric pieces are too small, they’ll use a more traditional patchwork style or weaving. Some lines use organic cotton or non-toxic, natural dyes. Some manufacturers say their items are natural but they still use copper and things to bring out more vibrant colors in clothing.
There’s a huge selection of locally made jewelry and artwork, gift items, accessories too, a little home décor as well—the little unexpected treasures that people find, whether it’s for themselves or gifts—little luxuries, little out-of-the-ordinary bits ’n bobs. I’m constantly on the hunt for unique jewelry, clothing, and accessories.
While it is difficult at times to be the sole proprietress of a business, it also has many rewards. Blackbird is really an extension of my life, philosophies and interests. It is challenging to have to wear so many hats—to be the creative force, as well as have the business mind that goes with it.
I think Blackbird fits well into the downtown Marquette scene. I feel I’ve created an inviting space and sometimes customers will just pop in for a little inspiration and because they love the way the shop makes them feel. I really can’t believe it’s been four years since Blackbird opened. I am excited to be a part of such a wonderful community here in downtown Marquette.
Why did you open Blackbird?
I grew up with my mom having a boutique. I worked there summers early on during college, and I absolutely loved it—helping women find things that inspired them, and all the patterns and textures and colors of the fabrics. I enjoyed it so much, I was kind of hooked.
Even back then, opening something like Blackbird was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to do it so badly, and just always thought, “It’s not a practical thing. I can’t.” I was afraid of going for it.
I finished school, was living in Denver a while, working at the Clyfford Still Museum. Although I loved it there doing event planning and coordinating for donors or for weddings, I just had this calling. I wanted to do something that made more of an impact. And I was missing Michigan, the lake, and family. It was time to move back. So I decided to go for it.
At the time there wasn’t a lot in Marquette like what I had in mind. I was nervous not knowing what the reaction would be. I always wanted to do something that was good, that made a difference. Finding sustainable, fair trade, ethically-made clothing allows me to offer something good for people and the planet.
I went to Western Michigan University and Kendall College of Art & Design. I have a degree in English, and minors in Environmental Studies and Art History. My education and art background play a big role in the design of Blackbird as well the merchandise I carry. I try to bring in a sort of ethereal, otherworldly vibe, and to make women feel empowered by dressing in a way that respects their confidence. There are things you can’t really find anywhere else—unique pieces that are also timeless and versatile, and can be worn comfortably too, with interesting forms and natural fibers. They just feel better.
What’s new at Blackbird?
I just did a little update while we were closed for March. I took down a couple free-standing walls to open the space up a little bit more. Also, there is a new wall mural, some new lighting, and I’m adding a much needed second dressing room. The space definitely feels more open because of the changes made.
What do you find most challenging about running Blackbird?
So far, the pandemic has been the most challenging thing to go through, but I have managed to successfully stay on top of it by following health department guidelines and offering contactless payments and pick-ups, if people wish. Also, there is an online shopping option at www.blackbirdmqt.com. And while not all of my inventory shows up online because so many things are one-of-a-kind or small batch, I can take pictures of similar items for customers if they desire. It’s sort of a personal shopping experience, and I’ve worked with many people this way.
What do you enjoy most about running it?
I enjoy my customers the most, definitely. I just love getting to know them, and I especially love the one-on-one experience. To connect with these women, and just have fun, and have them leave feeling really good about something they purchased, not just because it looks good on them, but also because they know it’s sustainable clothing. That’s something I really hold close to me, and what Blackbird is all about.
Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.