Em & Elle, a modern and stylish boutique, was welcomed to the Durham business community on Monday as it opened its doors for the first time.
This is the shop’s second location, the first being in downtown Portsmouth and formerly known as Serendipity. Owner Chloe Kelley, a Durham native, was eager to open the second location after seeing the “for rent” sign back in June on a trip to the post office to drop off online orders when the Portsmouth location was still closed due to the pandemic.
“I have been apprehensive over the years when considering a second location, but our Em & Elle team members have been enthusiastic about the idea for some time, and loyal customers have also encouraged me to take the leap,” said Kelley.
However, Kelley is not the original owner of the boutique. Kelley worked at the shop as a teen when it was still known as Serendipity in Portsmouth.
“I applied asking the owner, Martha Stolzer, if she could teach me the ropes because I thought I might like to have my own store one day. She took me under her wing and taught me all about the business. Over the next nine years Martha and I developed one of the most important and meaningful relationships I’ve ever had. She was not only a boss but a mentor, and a true friend. Together we worked to keep Serendipity successful and relevant in a very online based shopping world. She taught me that a boutique is about the experience customers have when they come in and the relationships we build with them.”
Stolzer ended up selling Serendipity to Kelley and she felt it was time to give the boutique a new logo and name after so many years. She worked closely with the now-general manager of the Durham location, Sarah Murphy-Rounds, to bring her vision to life.
“We struggled with what to name the store, and agreed that it would be nice to use two names to perpetuate the sentiment of shopping and spending time together. Whether it is friends or family we want the boutique experience to be enjoyable for everyone, and for all ages.
We finally settled on using the initials of our dogs, who were littermates. Mazzy & Lucy, M & L, Em & Elle. It was a roundabout way of coming up with a name but it is meaningful to us, and even more so now that Lucy has passed,” said Kelley.
Kelley and Murphy-Rounds strive to keep the boutique filled with a wide range of products so there is something in it for everyone, whether it be clothing, accessories or gifts. As for clothing, Kelley says you can find clothes for anything from going out to exercising, and everything in between.
“And if none of that is for you, there are greeting cards, really cute stuffed animals, scrunchies and home decor! We are always interested in hearing your thoughts and suggestions. If you want to see more of something in the store we will do our best to add it to our collection, just let us know,” she said.
Kelley’s favorite part about opening up a new location has been getting the opportunity to transform the space into something “new and exciting.” While they have had to take extra care to ensure safety for customers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they still enjoyed being able to put care and creativity into the appearance of the boutique.
“In both our locations we ask that everyone wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times. We provide hand sanitizer and ask customers to use it before shopping around and handling any products. We are monitoring our head count in each shop and adjusting the number of people allowed in the store at a time as needed which means that occasionally people may be asked to wait a few moments outside. We are also asking that people remain masked while trying clothes on in the fitting rooms,” said Kelley in regards to the preventative measures being taken inside the store.
On opening day, the boutique, located in Suite 102 at 1 Madbury Rd., welcomed plenty of customers, as well as other local business owners who stopped by to introduce themselves and welcome Em & Elle to the community.
“To see all of our hard work come together and to see people’s positive reactions was great. Em & Elle team members greeted friend after friend as people came in to show their support.”