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“Hi you guys, it’s me, I miss you,” said Rachel Hershinow in her first Instagram and Facebook Live video on April 6, 2020. Two years later, she’s celebrating her 20th anniversary at Stella Boutique.
Hershinow, the owner of Stella Boutique on Central Street, began hosting live videos on social media a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began. She watched the doors to many of her favorite businesses close, and some did not reopen.
“I had to save my business,” Hershinow said. “Everyone has a COVID story. Mine is no different from others, but it did change me in so many ways.”
Hershinow made dozens of videos for her social media channels that showcased products at the boutique, and started hand-delivering items to people in the Evanston community. She had to think out of the box, she said, to keep Stella from closing.
“It was a way to get myself and my items to the public because they couldn’t come in,” Hershinow said. “It was a huge learning experience.”
Yet, Hershinow is no stranger to running a business in challenging times. Hershinow purchased Stella in the first few months of 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack.
At the time, Hershinow was a young mom with children ages 4 and 1. The previous owner of Stella had just rung in four years and was looking to close the shop’s doors. Hershinow said she stumbled upon the opportunity and Stella became hers.
“It was the right place, right time, and I just went for it and it has been the best thing I have ever done,” she said.
Including a remodel in 2012, Stella became a vastly different store under Hershinow’s leadership. Racks of clothing, Frida Kahlo merchandise, mugs mirroring the shape of the female body (part of the goddess collection) and candles with Evanston’s zip codes on them – Stella is filled with one-of-a-kind items, just the way Hershinow intended.
“Everything in the store is curated by me and I love everything, and it is easy to sell things you love, and I get to work with amazing women,” she said.
Walk into Stella and one thing that is clear – Hershinow wants her female shoppers to feel empowered. She has worked over the years to highlight womanhood and help young girls be not only comfortable with their gender, but proud.
“Female-centric items are always a big thing in this store,” she said. “I will always have items that are empowering.”
Twenty years later, Hershinow says that she owes it to her customers who kept coming back.
“I am really grateful I am still here. It isn’t easy, but we have great and loyal customers.”
Join Hershinow at Stella on Friday, March 18, 5-7 p.m., to raise a glass for the next 20 years.