Aster + Gray

The Heart + Soul Behind a Beloved Valpo Boutique

Gabrielle Pazour

A little over a year ago, a new boutique arrived on the scene of Valparaiso’s bustling downtown, and it’s been thriving ever since. Aster + Gray, a shop that sells goods handcrafted by more than 90 artisans from all over the U.S.—many of whom are from Northwest Indiana—has quickly become a favorite destination for many NWI shoppers. We spoke with owner Gabrielle Pazour about her vision for Aster + Gray and how it all started.

Photo credit: Brad M. Wolf

Photo credit: Brad M. Wolf

Before you opened your store, you were a vendor at local markets.What made you go from being a home-based business selling your wares at markets, to having a brick and mortar?
In June of 2017, the opportunity to open a store presented itself, and I decided to take the plunge. It was the perfect opportunity to support makers like myself, and having a boutique is something I’ve always wanted to do. Additionally, most jobs that I’ve had from high school through post-college have been for a small, locally owned business, and I really loved that each of those businesses were invested in the community. Through my brick and mortar, I’m able to give back to local nonprofits more than I could before, and it’s also given me the creative freedom to cultivate a really awesome business. 

Was it scary to make that leap? 
Anything with an unknown outcome (like quitting a full-time job to be a business owner!) can be scary, but I have such a supportive family and group of friends, and I knew they had my back, so I wasn’t scared going into it. 

What has been the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur so far?
Being an entrepreneur comes with its fair share of challenges, like time management, accounting, multitasking and marketing. I’m not a pro in any of those areas, so I’ve realized that in order to be successful, it’s so important to find the right people who can excel in the areas you’re lacking. We’ve built a really great team with trustworthy people who all bring different strengths to the table, and it works really well.  

The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur has been becoming okay with uncertainty. When you have your own business, you’re going to have great days, and you’re going to have not so great days. 

There’s usually not the “right” time to do something, and you’re not always going to feel ready to try something new. But, you’ve still got to take action and try. If things don’t pan out the way you wanted the first time, you keep trying until you figure it out. And sometimes, when things don’t turn out as expected, it’s a really great thing! Although this has been a challenge for me, it’s been one of the most important things that I’ve learned. It’s pushed me to be flexible and willing to adapt, which I think is key in being successful. 

The most rewarding?
There are so many aspects I love about my career, but the absolute best thing about my shop is that it supports people. Opening a boutique has always been something I knew I would do someday, so by stocking merchandise that’s made by people—many of whom are local to NWI—we’re able to give artisans an outlet to sell their goods, and I’m able to do something I love every single day.  

How do you go about selecting the artisans you feature in your store? 
We find vendors through our website application, local handcrafted markets and sites like Etsy, and a good portion of people find us through Instagram. To sell merchandise in the shop, items must be handcrafted, and we also look at things like branding, social media presence and overall aesthetic. 

You’ve been doing a lot of events in the past year. What made you start that and how has that experience been?
Since my shop has event space in the back of the building, it really is the perfect area to host events. We have so many artisans in the shop, and I love that through events, they can share their creativity with other people beyond the products they have for sale in Aster + Gray. I’ve also been working with a close friend on hosting larger events at different venues, and we’ll announce more about those events in the new year. 

What goals do you have for your business in 2019?
I would love to increase the number of artisans represented in the shop. In the past year, we’ve tripled the amount of artisans, and it would be wonderful to support even more people. 

Tell us more about who you are personally, apart from your store.
My husband Kevin and I live in a 1913 Craftsman home in downtown Valpo. We love walking our rescue pitties, Poco and Bee, and admiring all of the beautiful historic homes in the surrounding neighborhoods. The downtown area is such a gem! When I’m not working, I spend time riding my horse Alice—it’s the perfect way to unwind after a long day. I’m also probably one of the only 20-somethings in the area who loves music from the 1940s. I swear I’m from a different era! 

Source: HERE Magazine