MANCHESTER, NH – A delightfully unexpected addition to Manchester, Lilac and Finch boutique opened its doors in September. Nestled in a bright and welcoming storefront on the corner of Elm and Prospect streets, Leslie Boswak and her daughter, Stephanie Nepveu, have worked hard to offer a stunning collection of gifts, largely highlighting New England artisans.
Set in the unassuming north end of Elm Street in a space that was previously used as office space for a financial company, its large windows now display glimmering glass witches’ balls, iron candle holders, and golden greetings of ‘Hello’. The front door displays a sweet sign that lets you know that yes, they are open, complete with a heart that tells you they love all things local. There is also a dog water bowl to the left of that door, because, they love local dogs, too.
Leslie and one of her employees are in the midst of unpacking and organizing their latest delivery of goods to carefully display, as though they are art gallery curators as much as shop keepers, and in a way, they are. Every spare space is adorned with something eye-catching and unique, with products ranging from New England-made puzzles to handcrafted pottery, colorful recycled glass apothecary bottles, scented lotions and soaps, even purses and clutches that have been stitched together from cork.
There is a sort of artisan community feel when you walk through the door, which makes sense when Leslie explains that though she and her daughter both came from accounting or financial backgrounds, she has always been driven towards the more creative. In fact, her own artisanal garden-inspired line of skincare products, Heleka, can be found here on these shelves as well.
Leslie was creating and selling her Heleka line of products before Covid changed the landscape of selling homemade goods. Without markets and fairs, due to the lack of gathering in 2020, she began doing more wholesale as opposed to in-person which, unfortunately, lacked the community interaction that she loves.
And when it comes to this community, she is no stranger to Manchester. When I asked how she came to find this location, she replied, “I was just driving by and saw the ‘For Lease’ sign in the window.” Turning to look out at the bustle of cars driving past, she points to the large brick building across the street, “I remember shopping at the aquarium store over there, and my first dentist was in that building, under one of those arches.” Her father, she tells me, owned a furniture store on the other end of Elm Street.
So, it’s a homecoming of sorts and one where she has found like-minded shopkeepers and business owners as her new neighbors. The Terracotta Room has been helping send customers onward to check out Lilac and Finch. And Lilac and Finch even leave a sample of what The Terracotta Room has to offer, with a note telling their own clients where to go next on their shopping tour of Manchester. It’s exactly the sort of community over competition that Leslie believes in. As the idiom goes, she says, “a rising tide raises all boats.”
When asked which product she’s most excited about currently, there’s a hesitation and a pause as she scans the whole room. It’s clear that it’s hard for her to choose, and so she doesn’t choose a single item but instead brings me to the room to the right of the entrance, which is filled to the brim with locally sourced edible delights – shelves, and tables of baking mixes, jams, syrups, and cocktail mixers, and teas. With the holidays coming, this is a space she is excited for, for both giving people ideas for creative things to cook and prepare, but to also give as holiday or hostess gifts.
Along with the specialty foods, there are platters and mugs, whiskey glasses, and a section for cards and journals, cutting boards, tea towels, and more. Looking around, my eyes simply want to linger and take it all in. There are platters along the tops of the shelves that are so beautiful, I tell her I might feel guilty buying one, because what would then fill that space?
“Oh, we have plenty. It’s like Tetris here, we’re good at filling the spaces as they empty.” And I have no doubt, given the rush of parcels being delivered to her shop during the week.
In the coming weeks, Lilac and Finch will begin offering customizable gift baskets, as well as pre-made, and they will be launching their online retail store as well. I highly recommend taking a stroll away from the beaten path at the center of Elm Street and try exploring this up-and-coming strip of artisan shops.
And, you can even bring your pup if you’d like. There is truly something for everyone, and everyone is truly welcome.