After 25 years in the toy business, Grosse Pointer Ellen Durand has expanded the merchandise offerings at to include accessories, jewelry and other trendy items popular with tweens.
Durand began offering tween products about two years ago in a small section of Village Toy. That portion of the business grew to the point that Durand expanded the tween's division of Village Toy, named El's Boutique, earlier this year.
El's now fills about half of the store and it features a wide-variety of accessories, from bedroom furniture appealing to tweens, desk and locker accessories, jewelry, crafts, sparkly nail polish and more.
Many of the items are targeted for the tween girl, but much of the merchandise is appropriate for ages 10 through adult, Durand said. With the exception of the larger pieces of furniture, all items are under $50, she said.
Durand has seen a variety of changes in the toy market, especially with more internet toy purchases by parents as compared to years ago. The space currently occupied by El's Boutique was no longer needed for toys, she said.
Additionally, in the last few years, she's noticed a dramatic change in the gift market, which is now recognizing the previously discounted tween market.
"They've put a lot of stock in youth," she said, noting for the first time this year she attended the Dallas Gift Show instead of a toy show. The gift market in general is all about accessories, she said.
Among the most popular items at El's Boutique are the Sloane Ranger tote, duffle and messenger bags, Durand said, adding "anything with owls on it. Oh and anything for their locker."
There are locker curtains, chandeliers for a locker, locker looks and more, Durand said, explaining she'll have a big push in this area for back-to-school shopping late this summer.
Not only does the store provide merchandise the tween-aged girl wants herself but it also gives Grosse Pointe tweens a place to buy a gift that is affordable and trendy in a store that welcomes that age group, Durand said.
In designing that portion of the store, Durand said she really tried to make it welcoming and comfortable for the girls. She's even set up a few areas using display furniture where shoppers can sit down.
The newest addition to El's Boutique is a line formerly carried at Initials in the Village, Durand said, explaining how excited she is to offer the line. Heartstrings Monogram offers personalization on silver jewelry, she said.
Not only is it an additional El's item but it also builds on Village Toy's personalization station in which shoppers can select any number of objects to be decorated with a child's name and other decorations.
Durand has established a Facebook page for El's Boutique, where she highlights new products and uses it to keep customers up to date.