New Essex Boutique Addie & Grace Offers Clothes for Adults and Kids With a Personalized Touch | Kids VT | Seven Days
Addie & Grace, the chic new women and children’s clothing boutique at the Essex Experience, began the way so many ventures do — with an entrepreneur’s conviction that there’s got to be a better way.
Owner Jennifer Graham was disturbed by the dyes and chemical smells coming from her children’s clothing, even after several washes. She had been carefully choosing the foods her family ate and the skin care products they used. And when she saw — and smelled — those garments, she wondered what other potential toxins her children were exposed to.
Research into fast fashion left her disturbed by industry practices, including poorly paid employees working in unsafe conditions, and she resolved to buy clothes that were beautiful, sustainable, and good for people and the planet.
Simmering along with that resolve was Graham’s longtime desire to open her own business — a restaurant, piano bar or children’s store. But that seemed like a fantasy, said Graham, 48, who has spent most of her career in marketing.
“And then, you know, COVID happened,” she said. “I was kind of in between work and just got to thinking about: Maybe we could do this.”
She pitched her idea of a boutique with a bent toward sustainability and social responsibility to Essex Experience owner Peter Edelmann in January, signed a lease for 1,900 square feet in March, remodeled it from floor to ceiling and opened on October 10.
Contractor Jason Gaudioso and designer Meredith LeCompte gave the former Bass outlet space a clean, modern feel grounded with warm, rural charm. White walls, soaring ceilings with exposed ducts and a central display case with a quartz top are paired with the rich, deep browns and blonds of the floor, barn door and shelving, all built from wood that came from a 200-year-old barn.
Named for Graham’s daughter, Addison, and her grandmother, Grace, the airy store showcases an inclusive, stylish and unique collection. It includes a bold teal swing coat from Estelle and Finn; lush alpaca wraps, hats and mittens from Pokoloko; velvet tunic tops with matching little girl dresses from Vermont designer April Cornell; silver sequined pants and a trendy asymmetrical top from Joseph Ribkoff; and cotton tanks and sweaters designed and manufactured by Muriel’s of Vermont, a mother-son duo in Grand Isle.
Sizes run from extra small to extra large, and price points vary widely. There’s a $68 sweater, there’s a $350 sweater, and there are customers for both, said store manager Samantha Sleeper, who runs the store’s day-to-day operations. Sleeper brings 20 years of fashion retail experience, including eight years as a senior account executive for J Brand denim and eight years as store manager for Burlington boutiques Jess and Expressions.
Sleeper gets to know her customers and buys with them in mind. For those too busy to come in, she pulls together items she thinks her client would like, drops them off at their home or office try on, and then stops back to pick up whatever they decide not to keep. It’s an approach similar to personal styling services such as Stitch Fix, but Sleeper does it for free. Attorney Joy Limoge has used it and said Sleeper’s picks are spot-on. “She’s gotten me out of my box, wearing all kinds of different things,” Limoge said.
Graham vets clothing manufacturers before buying. “I would say 90-plus percent of the brands that we’re bringing in here, I feel very confident … that they are treating their workers fairly, and they’re making a fair wage,” Graham said. “And that the items are not made with carcinogenic chemicals and fumes and things that expose these workers to really, really bad stuff.”
The store’s children’s section, smaller than the women’s department, sells clothes in sizes newborn through size 10 and includes items from Hatley, Zutano, April Cornell and Hanna Andersson. Smocked dresses with bows in the back and longalls from the Bella Bean, $54 each, look like heirlooms a child may have worn in the 1950s or ’60s.
Fuzzy pink earmuffs, fox and kitten barrettes, and glittery rainbow necklaces — all from Rockahula Kids — catch modern kids’ eyes. Six-year-old Quinn Moore got to pick out treats after her dentist appointment recently. “We need these,” she told her mother as she perused accessories and tried on the earmuffs. “Look at these!”
“How about you choose two things from the three things you’ve picked?” Barby Moore said.
“No, four!” Quinn countered, before quickly selecting the rainbow necklace and Piggy Paint natural nail polish in a teal color called Sea-quin.
“I think if I let her, she’d get everything,” Barby said. That day, they only stopped into Addie & Grace for a little gift for Quinn, Barby said. “And to check it out, so I can come back by myself sometime.”