OWOSSO — The idea behind MiLi’s Boutique, newly opened at 221 N. Washington St., is to offer clothing for women of all ages at affordable prices.
MiLi’s (pronounced My-Lees) has been selling clothes during live Facebook events for a year, but only recently set up a storefront at the corner of Washington and Mason streets, easy to spot thanks to its bright pink shutters.
“We carry sizes from small to 3X, and our customers range in age from 18 to 85. We wanted to have something for everybody,” said Lisa Phelps, who owns the shop with husband Michael Phelps. The store’s name combines the beginning of the couple’s first names.
The priciest items currently in the store are blue jeans running $48. Lisa Phelps said she keeps things fresh for customers by switching up her clothing inventory every day or so.
“We do that so when customers come in they will always see new products,” she said.
Phelps said the storefront helps fill the gap created by the pending closure of J.C. Penney’s in Owosso, leaving the area with few places to shop for women’s clothing.
MiLi’s stocks everything from leggings and jeans to sweaters and dresses, representing a variety of brands, mostly made in the U.S. The focus is comfortable, stylish clothes that can be mixed and matched. Also on hand are shoes, cosmetic bags, self-tanners and Candy Club candy.
“We’ve had tremendous support, from other businesses and customers,” Phelps said. “People love to see downtown flourishing. It’s exciting. Small businesses have become important now, more than in previous years.”
At least once a week, MiLi’s sells items live on Facebook. Customers register for the popular, interactive event, and purchase items on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who miss the live event can buy clothing through a video replay.
Ten percent of the sales from one store item Phelps chooses very month is given to a nonprofit. Past recipients include Angel’s Hands, the Shiawassee Humane Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“We try to give back, whether in time, money or talents,” she said. “We’ve always done that, and we wanted to do that with our business, too.”
Phelps was raised in Owosso, graduated from Owosso High School in 1992 and still lives in Owosso with her husband. Between them, they have six grown sons.
Lisa Phelps worked for years as a manager for a temp staffing company. When the firm downsized, she and Michael decided to take advantage of the opportunity to make Lisa’s dream come true.
“I’ve always loved clothes, and when I was young, I always looked forward to school shopping,” she said, adding her former job helped her prepare to open her own business, teaching her about business, staffing and people.
Although Lisa Phelps mostly runs the store’s day-to-day operations, Michael Phelps, who works for Kellogg’s, pitches in whenever he can, she said. He assisted in renovating the space prior to the opening, installing crystal chandeliers and painting the walls with the store’s logo colors, navy blue, silver — and pink, Lisa Phelps’ favorite color.
MiLi’s is not all about selling clothes, she said; it’s also about helping people. Many online and in-store customers have become friends, and the store welcomes their input on what type of clothes to stock.
“Some ladies worry they don’t look good in certain kinds of clothes. I want them to think about what kind of clothes look great on them,” Phelps said. “I enjoy helping them find that perfect outfit.”