LOMBARD – In May, Irene Kozlowski and her husband were getting ready to head to Yorkville and sign a mortgage on their first home when her cellphone rang.
It was a number she didn’t recognize, but she answered anyway. On the phone was the Lombard Town Centre, calling with the good news that 3 S. Park Ave., a property that caught her eye at the beginning of the year, was available for rent.
“I saw this property, and I had to have it,” she said.
Now, three months after the phone call, Deer Fina, a contemporary woman’s clothing boutique owned by Kozlowski, is open for business. The grand opening was two weeks ago.
Kozlowski, 31, grew up in Lombard, graduated from Glenbard East High School, and lives in West Chicago. She got her first experience working in the clothing boutique industry thanks to her mother, who used to operate a baby boutique. Then, she helped her sister run a boutique for three years in West Chicago. The business closed, but thanks to a supportive husband, she decided to try again.
“I wanted to go back into merchandise buying, but my husband said, ‘No, we’re going to do your dream,’” she said.
The business’s name, Deer Fina, pays partial tribute to her husband who is an avid hunter. “Fina” is Kozlowski’s middle name, which also means “fine things,” she said.
Despite growing up in Lombard, the village’s downtown district wasn’t an attraction for Kozlowski, who admits she never visited the area as a teen or young adult. It was within the past year the she took St. Charles Road to visit her parents and realized the new activity along St. Charles, Park Avenue and Main Street.
“When I came to visit my mom, I saw the [new businesses],” she said.
It was the large, storefront window in the property at 3 S. Park Ave. that attracted her to the location. There was no sign advertising the property was for rent, but she was persistent and finally got her top pick.
“The windows are always important,” she said. “They will tell everyone what kind of a boutique it will be.”
She also likes the location because of the train station and busy St. Charles Road.
Many of her customers from the West Chicago boutique already have visited her new location in Lombard, and in her first week in business, she has had dozens of other people pass through the doors.
She describes her clothing as contemporary fashions that are appropriate for women between the ages of 20 and 50. Because of a high demand for it, she also offers extended sizes. The most expensive items in the store are a line of handcrafted bags from Columbia that run for about $100 a piece, but the majority of the clothing is significantly lower in prices, she said.
“When I opened, I did a lot of research,” she said. “I want something that’s cute, but affordable. I can find similar styles and the same quality for lower prices.”
Shoppers to Deer Fina are unlikely to find other people walking around town with the same outfit, Kozlowski said. She only orders a few of each item, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. She said she does this as a courtesy to her customers so they have something unique.
She also offers styling and fashion advice to the people who come into her shop.
“If something doesn’t look right, I’ll suggest something else,” she said. “It’s not always about making a sale. I always like to hear what [the customers] have to say. It’s not about being greedy and trying to make a sale.
“I just want to be successful. I would like to open three locations; I don’t want any more.”