Bonnie Reay, owner of the eclectic Heights boutique Emerson Rose, found her calling at a place called Bliss.
“After college, I moved back in with my parents and swore I was going to law school,” says Reay. “My mom has this store in Sealy called Bliss. I was like, ‘Okay—I’m taking the LSAT. I’m going to spend this gap year applying to law school and working at Bliss.’ After a while, I thought, ‘I love this. What if I could do this for a living?’ I told myself I’d go to school, become a lawyer and then open my own shop. Until I realized I could kind of skip the whole law school thing and go right to opening my own shop.” That shop was Emerson Rose.
Opening just before Christmas in 2013 on 19th Street in the Heights, Reay’s boutique is, like everything outside right now, blossoming. Racks upon racks of feminine, vintage-inspired frocks, fun housewarming gifts, and tables full of modern jewelry fill the space formerly occupied by the clothing store Harold's. It’s like shopping in a friend’s hippie-paradise of a closet—full of things that you might not have bought yourself (such as an embroidered T-shirt, an oversized chambray tunic with tribal necklaces layered over it, or a crown of faux flowers worn with jeans and a billowing blouse), but fill you with pleasure. Lucky for your wallet, the prices are reasonable, so your bohemian sartorial revolution won’t break the bank.
“What sets us apart is we have a lot of handmade stuff, a lot of stuff that’s made in the U.S.,” Reay said. “And we really mix up the price point. You can easily find a $30 top or even a $30 dress, sometimes. But then we also carry higher-end lines that are really high quality. Things that retail for $300.”
Visiting several markets a year with her mother, a seasoned retailer, helps her keep inventory fresh and keeps her in check.
“She balances me out—if she wasn’t there, I fear I’d buy too much or too little!” Reay said.
Emerson Rose’s Heights location has been perfect for the shop—it thrives on the loyal following of local shopping aficionados. People in the Heights, Reay beamed, love to support small businesses and she’s enjoyed a warm reception from the community, not to mention a few regulars.
350 W. 19th St, Ste. B
“I’m just always thrilled when I connect with a new customer,” she said. “I think, ‘Oh! I’m one of her new places now!’ and she’s so happy I’m here because I’m convenient to her. After those moments I’ll even call my mom and be like, ‘I met the coolest customer today!’”
It's clear, talking to Reay, that inside the shop is her favorite place to be.
"It really worked out beautifully," she says. "I have no regrets—I’m so glad I didn’t go to law school. I found something I really really love.”