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Posted on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Wendy Chapman will open her first women's clothing boutique soon in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade

By Janet Miller

Wendy Chapman and Johnny Vaughn admit they are “fashion dorks.” When the two friends meet, they pore over fashion books and talk about the latest styles.

So it seemed natural that Chapman and Vaughn would join forces to open a women’s clothing boutique in downtown Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade that offers classic style without the sticker shock. Their store, Wendy, is scheduled to open by mid- to late April. The store will be about 600 square feet.

“We will have classic clothing that’s fresh, sexy and vital,” Chapman said. The store will also offer skin and body care products along with accessories such as belts and handbags.


Wendy Chapman, along with business partner Johnny Vaughn, plans to open a women's clothing boutique called Wendy in downtown Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade.

Janet Miller | For

“We’re going to be a little jewel box of a department store,” Chapman said.

But its price points won’t be haute couture. “We won’t have a Michael Kors skirt that costs $600 for a simple A-line cotton design,” Chapman said. The team hopes to appeal to a broad age range of women, from 20 to 60 and beyond.

Wendy will cater to professional women, and will also offer cocktail dresses during the holidays as well as casual everyday styles. It will have a concierge service, where staff will bring outfits to the homes and offices of busy customers, and will offer personal shopping by appointment.

Wendy will feature 10 to 20 lines of women’s fashions that are not offered in the area, Chapman said. The store doesn't aim to compete with Briarwood Mall or other downtown clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters or the handful of other small boutiques downtown, the partners said.


Chapman and Vaughn are restoring the original tile floor in their 600-square-foot retail space.

Janet Miller | For

The store's lines will be stylish, but short of trendy, Chapman said.

“We won’t carry anything with wings coming off the bottom. Styles will be enduring. We will sell trench coats that you can buy when you’re 25 and still want to wear when you’re 40,” Chapman said.

Lines include Zelda, Ravel and Leota. Some 90 percent of their lines will be made in the United States and anything outside of the U.S. will be ethically manufactured, Chapman said.

Prices will range from $50 for tank tops to $500 for coats, with most items running between $100 and $200.

Building began a few weeks ago at the store site: Old sky-blue linoleum that covered the floor is being painstakingly removed to show the original tile floor. Dressing rooms are being built.

“We’ll have a semi-industrial look with (exposed) plumbing and pipes and reclaimed wood, but with femininity: There will be a flirty French Provencal settee,” Chapman said. She and Vaughn are doing the interior design themselves.

The business partners are thinking big: They want to open a second retail store within a year and would someday like to design and manufacture their own line of women’s wear.

Chapman, a local commercial real estate appraiser, said she's been interested in fashion for a long time. Vaughn has worked in retail — most recently for the Gap — for 20 years and is an artist.

There’s a learning curve with a new business, the pair said. When they traveled to Chicago to attend a major buying show, they got their first look of what’s inside the fashion industry.

“In my mind, it was going to be like ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ Vaughn said, referring to the book (later a movie) that chronicles the peculiar and particular world of high-fashion magazines like Vogue. “We both dressed nicely. But when we got there, people were wearing sweat pants with purple skunk hair. They weren’t wearing fashion. They were buying fashion.”

Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for


JA Jones

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

The off-handed notion that a $50 tank top is what most women need/want could set up Ms. Chapman appear a bit insensitive or maybe oblivious to the financial state of a lot of people living outside of that small bubble (those with a big enough income to not be impacted much). Too bad. A nice alternative to the mall for mature women and for those who can not afford a personal shopper would have been welcomed.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 7:40 a.m.

Oh, this should be good. Let's see how long the store will last if the prices aren't keeping up with the rent in the arcade and the foot traffic that they won't get. My bet is 11 months.

say it plain

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:37 a.m.

blech, bourgeois couture for the landlord set ;-) You know, the WAGs of those who run all the student-rentals in town, living off the students to allow the WAGs their 100 dollar t-shirts, ick.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

I can't wait to come and support this Ann Arbor original! Love It!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

Leota New York is excited to be a part of this new shop! Congrats to Wendy and Johnny, the nicest shop owners in the business.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

Hey, there's already a great women's boutique that carries creative clothes for larger women. Check out Collected Works in the Farmer's Market (303 Detroit St).. They've been around for 34 years and have beautiful stuff.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Many of the items at Collected Works are lacking in shape: no waist definition, tailoring, or princess seaming. For the most part the clothing items are boxy, and sized very generously. If you want a "flowing robes" or 1960's artist look, that's great - and some of their fabrics are very nice...but not to my taste, or figure.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

Larger Women ???


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Sounds cool! Now hopefully you stock more than just XXS-M sizes stocked for the college-student figure (would LOVE some clothes stocked for those of us who are size L/12-14 range.)


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

We real women also have more money than college students and would love the opportunity to shop in OUR town...not at the mall.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

I second that!!! Real women have hips!

Bob Martel

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Good luck Wendy!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

Way to go Ms. Wendy!

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

Can't wait to see the restored floor.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

At last! Wonderful that AA will have a grown-up women's clothing store and I won't have to go to the mall. I'm so pleased.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

Kudos for opening a new clothing boutique in this lousy economy but I, for, one, will not be paying $50 for a tank top anytime soon...