By Deb Everts
Style-conscious women who want to feel confident and good about themselves have someone to seek advice from in Ellicottville.
Jessica Maynard-Gilbert, founder and CEO of Ava Grace Fashions, says she has been in the business of helping people feel really good about themselves for about the last 17 years.
Gilbert gained much of her experience in the retail clothing industry when she worked as a store manager at Nouriche, a women’s clothing store formerly located on Washington Street, for nearly three years. While managing Nouriche, she was inspired to open her own retail clothing business.
When Nouriche closed its doors in 2015, Gilbert decided to launch an online boutique at avagracefashions.com. With the knowledge she gained at Nouriche, she was successful, but she missed interacting with the customers. In September 2015, she had the opportunity to open Ava Grace Fashions at its current retail location.
“The question I’m asked the most is why did I call my business Ava Grace,” she said. “If my son, Samuel, had been born a girl, his name would have been Ava Grace. So when I decided to open my own boutique, I decided to name it Ava Grace Fashions.”
Gilbert’s business primarily sells women’s wear including dresses, tops, leggings and lingerie, along with jewelry, bags and shoes to accessorize. She tries to accommodate all sizes and carries a wide range from XS to 3X. The shop also carries basic men’s essentials and uniquely designed home products.
Whenever possible, Gilbert uses the products of local artisans. She carries a beauty line created by a woman in Buffalo and manufactured there. She sells a line of candles and beauty products made by another woman in Conewango Valley.
“My store has some eco-friendly clothing and there are also ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ items,” she said. “When I do have something imported, I try to find a local artist or a local distributor to fill that order. A lot of my jewelry may be imported, but the distributors are from Jamestown and Buffalo. That’s a way for me to fill in with affordable items that are unique and fun.”
Gilbert is a problem solver and makes shopping and style easy with videos on the store’s Facebook page. Each week, she tries to do a “how it fits” video where she shows women how new arrivals in clothing look on her and fit. Customers have the opportunity to watch, comment and ask advice.
“One of the things women struggle with most is style of clothing and not knowing what to do with it, so I like to give tips and tricks in my videos,” she said. “The other thing they struggle with is the fit.”
When Gilbert posts her “new week, new arrival” video on Facebook every Monday, she talks about new store merchandise and gives people suggestions on how to wear them together. She also suggests what outfits people might wear for various holidays and occasions.
According to Gilbert, the idea behind her style videos is to not only showcase her products and let everybody know what’s new, but to also make her customers feel more comfortable and confident shopping online. In addition, she has fewer returns because shoppers already have an idea what the fabric feels like and they know how it will fit.
When Gilbert started in the beauty industry more than 10 years ago, she did home parties for a jewelry company called Premiere Designs. She has been working with Premiere Designs for over nine years and carries their products in her store.
“Ava Grace Fashions is a continuation of my commitment to give people confidence and make them feel good about themselves,” she said. “When you can help people feel good about what’s on the outside, there comes this transformation on the inside, and they feel more confident showing who they are.”
Gilbert lives in Ellicottville with her husband, Bill, and son, Samuel, who is a senior in high school. She is very ingrained in the community and is active in the Village as a member of the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Stroll the Streets and Girls’ Get-Away Weekend committees.
Ava Grace Fashions is located upstairs in the Ellicottville Inn at 10 Washington Street. The boutique is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and is closed Tuesday.
To find out more about the business and the products it carries, call 699-1105 or (844) 899-9068. Visit online at avagracefashions.com or Facebook.