Village Trends Boutique is set to open on Chardon Square in the spot that had housed a health food store.

The Chardon Economic Development Committee last week approved a lease with boutique owner Elizabeth Tarkowsky who also has a shop in Chester Township. The new store will be at 105 South St. where Hilltop Nutrition was located before closing due to decreasing business during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

“I started an online boutique two summers ago, telling my husband I wanted to get into the boutique world and do pop-ups and online businesses while still working with my dad at State Farm,” Mrs. Tarkowsky said during the Zoom meeting. “I had just gotten my master’s degree and I wanted to try something that I really would enjoy doing and that’s how the boutique came about.”

She ended up at her Mayfield Road store after spotting an open space in a building across the street from the Chesterland Tavern and decided to give a proper home to the various dresses, shirts, jackets, pants and other assorted pieces of womenswear that were consuming her house.

At the meeting, Chardon Community Development Administrator Steven Yaney recommended that the city enter into a 37-month lease starting Sept. 1 at a rate of $200 a month. “She wants to open in October, so September would just be getting up and running. She’s been talking with Mary Glauser from Chardon Tomorrow about potentially leasing a space since last fall.”

City Manager Randy Sharpe said the new tenant would get a month of lease forgiveness in September.

Part of Mrs. Tarkowsky’s rent payments will be covered by the Uptown Retail Grant, Mr. Yaney said, which the city offers to some businesses on the square but has had to do away with this year due to COVID-19-induced budgetary concerns. He said he hopes that the city can work out something similar that will help her get the shop up and running in 2020.

Committee member and Chardon Councilwoman Heather Means said that she’d prefer to refer to any financial assistance between the city and Mrs. Tarkowsky for rent as a “lease agreement” as compared to a grant.

“I typically do retail clothing so it’s all new,” Mrs. Tarkowsky explained of her inventory. “I was going to a lot of fashion shows in Las Vegas, Chicago, but I tried to get affordable clothes. I try to get stuff that everyone can afford and feel good in. I also buy from a lot of local women, one who does candle making and one who does Cleveland shirts. I’m trying to bring as many local people as possible in.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when she had to briefly close the Chester location, she said she ran most of her business online, through her website and Facebook page, showing the committee that she could continue to make rent payments even if the Chardon location needs to close temporarily.

Committee member and Councilwoman Nancy McArthur said the boutique would be a good fit for Chardon Square, since it would be the only clothing store other than the Carriage Trade Boutique and Gordmans, which she said was going out of business, according to the store’s owners.

“I think having more stores to shop at, she would add to that benefit,” Mr. Yaney agreed. “I don’t have any concerns because, like [Mr. Sharpe] said, every lease is unique in its own right, and not all of our lease holders are eligible for the Uptown Retail Grant either.”

The other two businesses who approached the economic development committee about taking over the space after Hilltop’s departure were both similar versions of the smoothie shop that had closed, various franchises that operated under similar models.

In other meeting news, Mr. Yaney said he worked with Chardon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stacia Clawson to distribute personal protective equipment kits provided to the chamber by JobsOhio to 38 local businesses, ranging from offices to manufacturing to retail.

The boxes, he said, contained 100 disposable face masks, 10 KN95 masks and a 24-oz container of hand sanitizer, and any business with less than 100 employees was eligible to get one.

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