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story.lead_photo.caption Shawnna Willis poses inside her shop, Gracey's Boutique, located on W. Edgewood Drive. She just opened the shop after moving from California, MO. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

For Shawnna Willis, Gracey's Boutique is about more than just a place to shop.

"I want it to feel like you're part of the family when you walk into the store," Willis said, a few days after the grand opening of the boutique at 3218 W. Edgewood, Suite 500.

The boutique started in Willis' home in California, Missouri, catering to children's clothes, as Willis wanted to provide a place to buy cute and affordable clothes. After a while, she opened a physical location in the same area, but it was small and in a residential neighborhood.

"COVID shut us down," Willis said of the smaller location that was less than 300 square feet.

So, when Willis saw the opportunity to move to a larger spot in Jefferson City, she took it.

"I wanted to be able to offer the community a little bit more, and when you only have 280 square feet to begin with, you can only do so much," Willis said. "I wanted to venture out."

Plus, she said, she quickly realized there is a need in Jefferson City for a children's-focused boutique, as it's tough to find stores that cater to that type of clothing, especially at a reasonable price. That's a particularly important point for Willis, who told a customer while chatting at the counter that she tries to keep everything reasonably priced, as she's a mom, too.

The boutique has expanded since those first days to include some men's items and women's clothing, especially those geared to plus size women. Willis said she wanted there to be items for parents to enjoy while shopping, and she often heard from customers who struggled to find cute, affordable and plus-size clothing.

Willis said she gets that type of feedback as she talks with the people who shop at her store — it's a priority of hers to offer personal service and to be open with her customers. Given that many of them are mothers leading busy and often stressful lives, Willis said she likes to try to offer a compassionate ear and allow her customers to vent.

"I'm a real human," Willis said. "I want to share a conversation."

She also likes to try to offer options for parents, like layaway service, which Willis said she knows many people really appreciate.

When it comes to the items sold at her shop, Willis carries children's clothes starting at newborn. Everything is brand new, and the grand majority of the vendors are from the United States, Willis said, noting she tries to make sure she's carrying items that you can't find at big box stores.

"I want to be different," she said. "I don't want you to come in here and find what you find at Walmart."

The shop has tentative hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Any changes to the hours are posted to the Gracey's Boutique Facebook page, which is where Willis also hosts live sales on Wednesday nights.

The shop can be found at graceysboutique.com.

Know of any business happenings around Jefferson City? Let us know at [email protected]

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