Owner: Michelle Bouma
Why Bellingham? “I love Bellingham. The landscape, the mountains, hills, hiking trails and the urban downtown. For such a small downtown, it’s got great amenities and there’s always something to do. My favorite though, is knowing my community and neighbors, and feeling like I can make a difference.”
Favorite shop downtown? “Mi Shoes and Heroine are my favorite, but I’m a little biased.”
In the 4 years Michelle Bouma was managing Sojourn Clothing on Railroad Avenue, she found that she loved small businesses and working in a boutique. She knew she wanted to someday open her own store, and in 2005, the perfect opportunity arose. The owner of the store next door to Sojourn said they were leaving as soon as their lease was up. Michelle told Peggy Platter, the owner of Sojourn, who said to go for it! Michelle was familiar with the people shopping at Sojourn and frequently had to send them to the mall for shoes to complete their outfit. She saw the need for a fun, fashionable shoe store, and knew Bellingham residents would support it.
The next couple weeks were spent making a business plan and negotiating the lease. Michelle went on her first buying trip, and came back to start a 2-month remodel of the space. After the remodel, she went on a second buying trip to complete her inventory, and opened the shop in Fall 2005. Michelle’s desire from the start was to keep the price point in a reasonable range. She wasn’t looking to fill her shop with really expensive shoes, but still wanted nice quality shoes. The end result is a selection of shoes that encapsulates both ends of the spectrum: inexpensive shoes for the one-season wear or low budget, and higher-end shoes that will last years, but aren’t extremely expensive.
Another goal from the time Mi Shoes opened was to have shoes and accessories for women of all ages. Michelle believes you’re never too old for a style of shoes, and shoes can make women feel so beautiful, which can benefit any age. “A 16-year-old can try on a pair of heels, and it’s exciting to see her develop the confidence to wear them,” Michelle said. “Then a woman in her sixties can try on that same pair and since she knows who she is, she wears them with confidence.” One of Michelle’s favorite things is seeing a woman light up when she puts on the perfect pair of shoes.
The most exciting part for Michelle of owning Mi Shoes is connecting with so many different women. She’s had heart-to-hearts with people she has just met, while sitting on the couch in the shop, helping them try on shoes. Located in the heart of Bellingham, she is able to connect with the community in a way that she can put her best foot forward, make a difference, and represent the downtown area. Michelle is passionate about being a part of making women feel confident and beautiful by helping them put together amazing outfits. “I love seeing a woman who is well-dressed, walking down the street with killer confidence, and I look down and she’s wearing shoes from Mi Shoes,” she said.
With the wish to also sell women’s clothing, Michelle opened a clothing boutique on Commercial Street called Heroine Clothing and has a mobile clothing shop called Belle on Wheels. She is now able to dress women from head to toe. She has seen multiple women around Bellingham wearing 100 percent Heroine and Mi Shoes items. The creative process of putting these outfits together, whether it’s for a customer, a fashion event or a photo shoot is exciting and rewarding to Michelle.
Beyond her businesses, Michelle is a strong supporter of downtown. Also on the board of the DBP, Michelle is excited about the future of downtown. “We’re headed in the right direction, but we just need the backing and support to do what we do.” Through Mi Shoes, she donated to the Downtown Bellingham Partnership’s Spring Campaign: We Are All Downtown. She is truly keen on making downtown Bellingham as safe, interesting and unique as possible. She wants to keep events like Downtown Sounds and the Art Walk free for people, and knows that the more support the DBP gets, the more opportunities there will be to create more events. She also sees the importance of keeping the landscaping and hanging baskets beautiful, and really appreciates Peter’s hard work in the maintenance department. “I just really want to support the staff and their vision at the Partnership,” She said. “They do an incredible job and they need the freedom to do everything they dream of.”
Head to 1315 Railroad Ave. for cute shoes and fun accessories!
Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.