The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree.
Now, Taylor Alfonso sits in the chic surroundings of her Stella and Grace Boutique recounting her journey so far. She points through the Robert Street display window, “I grew up right there watching my mom run her shop. She’s the smartest businesswoman I know and I learned how to treat customers from her. She was made to be her own boss and I knew I wanted the same thing.” Amidst the high ceilings and large glass windows that make for a bright, open showplace where colorful fashions pop against dark walls, Taylor continues, “I knew I wanted to be in Olde Town, on this corner, in this building.” The timing was right as the previous tenant retired just as Taylor began the endeavor of her dreams. But following that road wouldn’t be easy.
Taylor graduated from Loyola in Political Science and was considering law school when she was diagnosed with a heart condition. “My doctor said if I wanted to have children, I needed to do so as soon as possible.” Taylor and longtime boyfriend Bradley Alfonso accelerated their wedding plans to start their family. Taylor’s face lights up as she describes daughter Stella Grace for whom the shop is named. “She has the self-confidence at three that many people never have. She puts outfits together, insists on picking out her own clothes – and she’s good! She’s spunky and sassy and loves to chase and catch the chickens on our farm.”
If Stella Grace is strong and independent, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Taylor’s not afraid to be different. “When I wanted the shop to have black walls, my mom wasn’t convinced but I had a clear vision and it worked.” Her husband, who owns Alfonso’s Pharmacy, also knows Taylor’s sense of self and fearlessness. “When I went shopping for my wedding dress, Bradley only asked that it be white. But the moment I saw the pink dress in the store, I had to have it. All he could do was shake his head as I walked down the aisle. He also wasn’t thrilled when I jumped in and swam with the lemon sharks on our honeymoon in Bora Bora, but I just had to do it.”
Family has taught Taylor to be true to herself. She appreciates her mother’s example and the work ethic that both parents instilled in her. “My dad always said, ‘What you put in is what you get out,’ and that has served me in my business and in my life.” When Taylor’s first child, son Brady, was diagnosed with autism, she put everything else on hold, determined to find help for him. “It took a year to get him in the stem cell treatment program at Duke University but we’ve seen a big change. He’s blossoming now.”
With Brady’s condition improving, Taylor felt the time was right to open Stella and Grace but she knew she’d need help. Bradley works long hours at the pharmacy and Taylor was dedicated to being a hands-on owner. She is grateful for her “village” of five generations of family that all agreed to help with the kids so she could devote the necessary time to the business and to her mom who also helps her every day in the shop. “My customers come to me for the personal attention I give them. I want them to be comfortable, feel good and look great.” Taylor says clothes have always mattered to her and that she remembers life events by what she was wearing. “Clothes are art. Your clothes tell your story. When I go to market I have certain customers in mind and I buy for them. With the help of my family, I’m able to live and breathe this store and that comes through to my clients.”
In the six months since Stella and Grace opened, Taylor has already expanded into the next building and looks forward to more growth. “In five years I hope this place is booming. I hope my son is talking more and that my family is happy.” And in 20 years, a grown-up Stella Grace may find herself standing on the threshold of the store that bears her name, and like Taylor before her, be ready to continue the adventure her mother began.
Stella & Grace Boutique is located at 2260 Carey Street in Slidell. For more information please visit shopstellagrace.com or call 985-265-4412.