Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

WARM WELCOME: “I try to have a great attitude. I want customers to feel as if they are walking into my home when they come to the store. I want them to feel very welcome.” Rita Conallen, owner of Urban Grace, is shown by a display of the boutique’s handbags, jewelry, and clothing.

Urban Grace, Specialty Boutique on Palmer Square, Offers Array of Women’s Clothes and Accessories

From the time she was a young girl, Rita Conallen loved fashion and shopping. Now, as the owner of Urban Grace, the new women’s boutique, she is able to share her fashion sense and expertise with others.

The shop opened at 7 Palmer Square West (the former site of Nine West) on March 26, and is a dream come true for Ms. Conallen. “This is really a new adventure. I was formerly an elementary school teacher for seven years, and then a stay-at-home mother for 11 years.

“As time passes, you become a different person and want to do different things. My sister-in-law has had a women’s shop in Bryn Mawr for 10 years, and I watched her. I enjoyed keeping track of the latest fashion trends, and I began to think of having my own shop.”

A graduate of Villa Victoria Academy in Trenton, Ms. Conallen now lives in Yardley, and has always liked Princeton. “I wanted a place with a lot of foot traffic, and Princeton seemed just right.”

Family Connection

She is also very proud of the fact that she was able to accomplish this on her own. It happened to coincide with her husband’s deployment to Iraq, as a member of the Naval Reserve. “I had a family and was running a home as well as starting a new business. I am really proud that I have been able to do this.”

There is a family connection, too. The shop is named in part for Ms. Conallen’s 11-year-old daughter Grace, who loves to come in and help her mother in the shop on weekends.

The attractive boutique is filled with a charming array of sophisticated clothing and accessories. The newly renovated space is warm and inviting with orange and cream decor, recessed lighting, and handsome hardwood floors.

Care has been taken with every detail. A terrific “To the Beach” window display features a dinghy, fun striped shirt, matching striped bracelets, also earrings and bracelets with anchor motif. It is an inviting introduction to what is offered within.

In addition to women’s clothes, including dresses, tops, shorts, sweaters, pants, and jeans, accessories, such as handbags, jewelry, scarves, and belts, are available.

“We are trying to reach a varied age group,” reports Ms. Conallen. “We have teens and up, Princeton University students, career women, etc. It’s really all ages. They like the lines we carry, including Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, Tracy Reed, Shoshanna, and AG Jeans. These are all exclusive to us in the area.”

Bright Colors

Bright colors are the key to spring and summer this year, she says. Prints and patterns of bold primary colors in dresses and tops catch the eye, and as Ms. Conallen points out, “Color blocking is very popular — putting unusual colors together in untraditional combinations. This adds a lot of interest. And, of course, classic white pants are always in fashion.”

Cotton, linen, and silk are favorite fabrics; and there is a style for everyone. More traditionally fitted dresses and tops share the space with relaxed casual creations; sleek off-the-shoulder cocktail sheaths are super choices, as are sun dresses and long jersey T’s. Ruffles add a feminine touch to blouses and shirts. Hem lengths are everywhere — mini, midi, and maxi.

“Young girls like the short skirts, but maxi skirts are also popular,” says Ms. Conallen. “The real point is that everything we carry is very wearable and versatile. For example, the ‘Love Quotes’ scarves of linen and viscose are extremely popular. Movie stars are wearing them. You can do so much with them, and they can be worn in so many ways. They can also add a wonderful touch of color to a neutral outfit.”

In fact, Ms. Conallen is wearing a lovely blue one in the accompanying photo. In addition, each scarf’s tag contains a “love quote” from Shakespeare.

Fashion Choices

There is no question that accessories complete the fashion statement. Urban Grace’s selection of colorful jewelry and belts have been very popular, as have the hand bags. “Earrings and necklaces have been big favorites, and they are at very nice price points, starting at $15,” notes Ms. Conallen. “We have something for everyone’s pocketbook.”

She is pleased that customers have responded to her fashion choices for the store and that people keep coming back. “We have had repeats even in the short time we have been open. I am happy that I have been able to focus in on our clientele, and I’m still tweaking the inventory. It’s evolving, as I learn more about clients’ tastes.”

Ms. Conallen finds that one of the pleasures of her new venture is helping clients with fashion ideas. “Customers often ask for advice and like us to help them put the look all together. I am really enjoying that. I like the give and take with the customers, and I am also happy to fill special requests if something is not here.”

Each day can bring a surprise, she adds. “A new customer walked into the store recently, and she turned out to be a college classmate I hadn’t seen in years. We were able to reconnect, and it has been so much fun. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened, but I am so encouraged. I really enjoy this new challenge, and am very satisfied with how it is going. Customer service is a priority at our store, and spending time with clients is so important. I very much hope they will all come back again.”

Sales are held from time to time, and gift certificates are available.

Urban Grace is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday until 8:30. Sunday noon to 5. (609) 454-3124.

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