'A perfect fit': Aurora shop owner opening second store in Wheaton
Shannon Gutierrez opened her downtown Aurora shop more than two years ago, and it's become so much more than a gift boutique.
It's a leading poster child for the shop local movement.
It's a home for more than 40 artisans to sell their creations.
It's an expression of female empowerment and Aurora pride.
And for Gutierrez, it was her dream, the answer she would give to the question, "What would you do if you could do anything?"
"I would always say I would love to have a shop," Gutierrez said.
She's the owner of Wyckwood House, the rare small business actually growing during the pandemic. After creating a following in her adopted hometown, the Wheaton native is bringing a second store to the city where she grew up.
In downtown Wheaton, Gutierrez will replicate the personal touches that make Wyckwood House a community center in Aurora's riverfront retail corridor. She curates a selection of clothing, vegan and organic skin care, artisan-made jewelry and home furnishings, greeting cards and novelty coffee mugs.
"I wanted to create something that wasn't just a store, but it was an experience where people could come in and connect with people in real life," Gutierrez said. "And I think that's something that we're missing."
Before COVID-19 struck, Gutierrez opened her doors to "Boss Babes," an outlet for entrepreneurial women to connect on Wednesday mornings. A local calligraphy artist would host monthly workshops at Wyckwood House. Every month, the store would turn into a live music venue for First Fridays in Aurora.
Adapting to COVID-19 precautions, Wyckwood House manages store capacity for events and provides hand sanitizer. Gutierrez recently offered a Teacher Appreciation discount to educators.
"It's very community-driven," said Elle Withall, executive director of the Downtown Wheaton Association.
Withall sees Wyckwood House as an anchor tenant responding to the city's desire for additional retailers in the downtown.
She worked with Gutierrez to bring the shop to a vacant space along a stretch of Hale Street transformed by new restaurants and outdoor dining during the pandemic. Gutierrez is looking to open in mid-October next to Miroballi Shoes at 126 N. Hale St.
"This was just a perfect fit," Withall said.
The store will feature what Gutierrez calls a "modern, chic vibe" and unique products. She says she feels honored to provide a slice of normalcy for patrons trying to cope in the COVID-19 era.
"I feel like right now, people want something positive and they want to continue to send gifts to their friends," Gutierrez said. "And they also want to buy something that makes themselves feel better."
One artisan is already working on a Wheaton version of the shop's popular Aurora, Illinois, pillow.
A bestselling coffee mug by graphic designer Sarah Cervantes bears another one of the many Aurora-proud messages you'll find at the original store: "Naperville? Please. (B-word), I'm from Aurora."
Gutierrez moved to Aurora about 20 years ago after she got married. She worked for 13 years at an Aurora church before realizing "it was time to do something different."
With no retail background, Gutierrez took a business planning workshop through the SCORE mentoring group and eased into the concept by running artisan markets out of her home on Wyckwood Drive in 2017. Through word-of-mouth, she built her customer base catering to friends, family, neighbors and their friends.
The Wyckwood name stuck when Gutierrez transitioned to brick and mortar.
"It's just been an amazing journey of things just kind of falling into place," Gutierrez said. "And that's really why I feel so passionate about not just doing this for myself, but encouraging other people to go after their dreams and passions."