Boutiques offer shopping alternatives

By Czarina Gregorio

Green Street is no longer just a place to find restaurants, bars, bookstores and tattoo or piercing shops. From vintage clothing, high-end boutiques and somewhere in between, Green Street offers fashions to cover the whole shopping spectrum.

Paris’ Boutique, 202 E. Green St.

Paris Seloover, the store’s owner, said she remembered having to travel to Chicago as a teenager to shop for the brands she preferred. She opened the high-end boutique last February so Champaign students and residents could seek out such clothes closer to home.

“The store carries designer brands you would normally have to find in Chicago,” Seloover said. “I go to trade shows in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to keep up with the styles.”

The boutique carries name brand clothing and accessories such as Citizens of Humanity, James, AG and Ella Moss.

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“Students love it,” she said. “They get really excited when they see all the brands.”

Turquoise and pink handbags line the window ledge, and the entire back wall on the right side of the store is lined with shelves housing more than ten different brands of denim jeans.

“You can’t find a denim selection of this caliber anywhere else,” Seloover said.

Seloover said T-shirts, cotton tops and jeans are among the most popular items in the store.

“Sometimes the uniqueness of the brands throws people off, but the boutique really offers a casual, relaxing and classy atmosphere.”

Tops: $20-25, Denim: $130-200

Marrakech Imports, 404 E. Green St.

Marrakech Imports is something of a historic landmark on Green Street. According to Chuck Schwartz, who has owned the business for five years, this October will mark the store’s 30th anniversary.

The original owners were from Pakistan and opened Marrakech Imports in 1975, naming it after a city in Morocco. Store merchandise includes men’s and women’s clothing, tapestries, home d‚cor and accessories. Roughly 20 percent of the store’s clothes are imported and the styles range from vintage ’60s to modern clubwear.

Inside the shop, the subtle scent of Nag Champa incense fills the atmosphere. The walls are covered with a variety of posters that echo the diversity of the store’s merchandise. Joey Ramone, James Dean and Madonna are a few faces adorning the wall panels.

Store clerk Amanda Dugan, senior in education, said the setup of the store is supposed to resemble the casual environments where students usually listen to music and hang out with friends while they figure out what to wear.

“It’s really relaxing while at the same time meant to be stimulating to draw your eye around the store,” Dugan said.

Dugan also said the store offers unique items that customers are usually surprised to find.

“I have had so many customers come in looking for one thing and leave with something else that they never expected to find,” she said.

Anastasia Dillman was eating lunch at a restaurant across the street from the store when she spied some new merchandise through the window.

“I really like the earthy, ethnic and feminine feel of the store,” Dillman said. “I am a belly dancer, so maybe that is why I am so drawn (to it).”

According to Schwartz, the customers are very loyal and will return to the shop throughout their college career.

“We offer the same items you can find at the mall, but at much lower prices,” he said. “After almost 30 years, we are survivors.”

Tops: $10-25, Denim: $15-40, Home d‚cor: $5-15

Luxi on Fifth, 628 S. Fifth St.

“Luxe” is an adjective for luxury, which is exactly what the boutique offers in brand name clothing and accessories. Store clerk Whitney Pope, a senior at Central High School, said “Luxi” is a play on the word “luxe.”

“Luxi sounds more fun and young,” Pope said. “That is really the feel of the store.”

The fashion-forward boutique carries brands like Juicy Couture, Seven For All Mankind, Camp Beverly Hills, Custo Barcelona and BCBG.

According to Pope, their customers do not mind the high-end prices because they like to relate to celebrities.

“Since Jessica Simpson was on MTV constantly wearing Juicy suits, so many customers came in asking for the Jessica Simpson look,” Pope said.

Recho Omondi, senior at Central High School, said she felt good wearing something she really liked and saved her money for.

“It’s awesome to buy a Camp Beverly T-shirt and then see Kelly Ripa wearing it on TV a week later,” Omondi said.

According to Pope, the boutique has a layaway program in which customers can pay 20 percent for an item and then take it home that day. The store offers a 30-day window after that in which to pay the remaining balance.

“Customers really appreciate that option and I think it is one of our best-selling tips,” Pope said.

She also said that the boutique often will mail its customers handwritten thank you notes. According to Pope, most of these customers are Chicago natives because most of the clothing comes from upstate.

“Even if you are from Chicago or not, you really get a good taste of the city from our selection.”

Tops: $10-100, Denim: $100-190

Digs, 624 S. Fifth St.

Digs is located just next door to Luxi on Fifth, but the major similarities end there.

According to Sarah Brager, store clerk and junior in applied life studies, Digs offers the look of a boutique but at affordable prices geared toward college students.

Jeff Blaum, the store’s co-owner, directly buys the clothing from Los Angeles designers, which enables the store to carry those items at lower prices.

“We remain fashion-forward and never repeat styles,” Blaum said. “At the same time, we are able to lower our prices to satisfy the customers.”

The store offers a wide variety of contemporary casual women’s clothing and accessories.

“We offer very fashionable clothes,” Blaum said. “But we try to stay true to the style of the Midwest in the colors and patterns we choose.”

According to Brager, one major obstacle for the store is to let people know where they are located.

“Since we are off the corner of Green, many people stumble upon us by accident because they don’t know we are here,” she said.

Although the Green Street store has been open for less than a year, co-owners Ted Shipton and Blaum own stores in St. Louis and Carbondale.

Tops: $15-25, Denim: $4