Tara Smithson and Stephanie Gonya are two friends who own and operate Miller St. Boutique at 702 Nilles Road in Fairfield. The boutique launched online shopping options July 1 featuring inventory not seen in its brick-and-mortar location. CONTRIBUTED

Starting from two small booths, this new Fairfield business has replaced a longtime gift store

The two women behind a Fairfield business are learning that replacing a longtime gift store requires a community focus combined with a global outlook.

Miller St. Boutique, which specializes in women’s apparel, home décor and gifts, is owned by Stephanie Gonya, of Fairfield, and Tara Smithson, of Symmes Twp., two friends who started off with two small booths at the Ohio Valley Antique Mall on Ohio 4 for three years.

When the retail spot that used to be Pleasantree Gift Shoppe became available last year, Gonya’s husband suggested the two women move to the larger space, she said.

“About three days later I called Tara and said ‘Do you want to open a store?’ and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Gonya said. “We went for it.”

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With no retail experience, the pair faced “a decent learning curve” but reached out to other non-area boutique owners, driving to them and meeting to discuss the ins and outs of running such a business, she said.

They also sought to figure out who their market was, meeting with the folks from Pleasantree Gift Shoppe to discuss customer retention while still “freshening up” the space with a renovation.

The “Miller” part of their business is a nod to their maiden names, although Gonya and Smithson are not related.

Last week, Miller St. Boutique launched an online boutique at www.millerstboutique.com to sell the same types of clothing, jewelry, handbags, home decor and gifts sold in the store but with a different inventory.

To do so Gonya and Smithson “went all in,” hiring a Los Angeles-based company to help with the marketing, including professional photographers and models.

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“That’s just the world that we’re in,” Gonya said. “To try to keep ourselves out there and relevant and make a go of this, that was what we felt was the next logical step.”

Miller St. Boutique also aims to stay relevant by broadcasting live at www.facebook.com/themillerstreet at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday, showing off new items and offering giveaways. The next “Tuesday Night Live” is scheduled for July 16.

That social media effort and others have helped the store amass more than 3,200 followers on Facebook, which Gonya said is “a pretty good thing” for a business that only opened its doors last August.

“We feel pretty good about how social media has helped us get our name out there,” she said.

A loyalty program rewards customers with additional discounts and rewards the more they shop at the business.

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