By Jason DeMoe
For the last five years, Heather Brabant has been toiling away in the retail industry dreaming of one day owning her own shop and doing things her way. Those dreams began materializing in September as she began cleaning, painting, and preparing to open her Creative Gathering Boutique in Milton Square at 2232 Carter Ave. in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood. She welcomed her first customers in October.
“I have always had a passion and a drive to want something more and something of my own,” Brabant said. “I [would] really love to be a part of a community and I am hoping I can accomplish that with this shop.”
Brabant’s boutique will offer an eclectic blend of handmade items from local artists, home décor, vintage pieces, antiques, and new retail. A native of Princeton, Brabant used to manage an event called “Arts in the Alley” in that city. Many of the contacts she made there will sell their wares in her new shop, but she is open to exploring new opportunities with local vendors.
“My mission is to support local artists and musicians and really become a place for community members to gather,” she said.
Milton Square is a European-style complex with unique architecture and a visually appealing landscape design. Brabant had her eye on the space in 2016, but the timing was not right for her. One year later, she noticed that it was again available for rent, and with a little push and support from her mother, Sherry, she did not hesitate.
“I was very picky because I had certain views of what I could see my store being,” she said. “This was the perfect fit and working with the landlord, Heather O’Malley, was great because she is so easy to deal with and really wants to help you every step of the way.”
Aside from the sales side of her boutique, Brabant also plans to host events and classes.
“The classes will be available for people to learn to make their own home décor, or knit, or make some seasonal item or craft depending on the time of year, or really any other thing that might come my way,” she said. “I even have a friend willing to teach some nutrition classes, so I really want to have a wide selection of offerings that appeal to all members of the community.”
Brabant also has plans to feature local musicians and poets both outside in the courtyard as well as inside on a small stage that she plans to build.
“Of course I will have singers playing guitar, but I want to do even more than that,” she said. “I would like to find a violinist or a pianist or even a trumpeter because I think it would be something that people don’t always get to experience and it would also help to support all different kinds of local musicians. I would also love to have some spoken-word poets come in because I think supporting different kinds of art is very important. Adding those elements to my shop will only help to make this the community hub that I hope it becomes.”
Brabant’s Community Gathering Boutique is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The shop can be found online at www.creativegatheringboutique.com or on Facebook and Instagram at creativegatheringboutiquemn.
Jason DeMoe has worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. He lives in White Bear Township, enjoys the outdoors and has hiked at least one trail in every Minnesota state park.