About six years ago, Ashley Dassinger Carson opened local clothing store ASH Boutique. And since then, she has watched many women come into her shop with their young daughters or granddaughters in tow.
“They want to be a part of our community, but they’re still too young,” Carson said. “The clothes don’t fit them right.”
She began to realize there weren’t many local retail options in Topeka designed specifically for girls. And shopping for her own daughters — 11-year-old Lilly and 8-year-old Grace — affirmed that assessment.
“What I realized was that there was just this missed market, this missed opportunity to create a space that truly celebrates girls as they are,” Carson said. “I feel like so often in our culture we have babies and toddlers and then we kind of force these girls to grow up and become 13, 14, even when they’re not quite there yet. I wanted to create a place … that feels safe and comfortable.”
From that desire came “Lilly Grace,” a new boutique that opened on Small Business Saturday in the Westboro Mart shopping center near the intersection of S.W. Huntoon Street and Oakley Avenue. Lilly Grace occupies the same storefront, at 3123 S.W. Huntoon St., where ASH Boutique, which has since moved downtown, got its start.
Carson’s own daughters were the inspiration for Lilly Grace, which is aptly named after them.
According to Carson, Lilly Grace has been in the works for about a year-and-a-half.
“July of 2019 is when I kind of knew I was going to be moving ASH Boutique downtown,” Carson said. “It was at that time that I kept thinking about what I was going to put in my Westboro spot. … It felt like just the right time to do something like this.”
Carson envisions girls being able to shop at Lilly Grace for special occasions, holiday outfits, vacation attire or even to pick out their first bra “in a place where we are there to celebrate you and not make you feel embarrassed,” she said.
“There actually aren’t any more stores in Topeka that cater to this age range,” she added. “Justice that was in the mall — they’ve closed. So I feel like we’re filling the niche of some of the big chain stores that are no longer in Topeka.”
Clothing available at Lilly Grace may also be purchased on the ASH Boutique website, shopashboutique.com, under the “Girls” tab.
Though Carson is excited to open the store to customers, she said the journey to this point hasn’t been free of obstacles. While searching for store merchandise, Carson ran into supply-chain issues.
“Getting merchandise is not easy at this time,” she said. “I know a lot of other small businesses are running into issues in the supply chain.”
Another hindrance due the coronavirus pandemic involved not being able to view potential merchandise in person before buying it for the store.
“I love to touch and feel and curate products specially designed for my customers. I like