Bella Amica Casual Boutique Opens Downtown
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Erin Lonsway was a flight attendant for 28 years but she always wanted to own a business in downtown Youngstown to be part of its renaissance.
When the pandemic caused a sharp downturn in air travel, Lonsway took an early retirement and let her new career take flight.
She opened Bella Amica Casual Boutique in early December. The long but narrow shop offers women’s apparel, including jackets and sweaters, novelty T-shirts and tops with Youngstown-centric messages, scarves, facemasks, candles and related items.
At eight feet wide and roughly 100 feet long, the shop has depth but passersby can overlook it.
That will change in about a month, when Lonsway will have a sign and perhaps an awning, mounted on her tiny storefront at 19 W. Federal St., next to Avalon Pizza. She plans to close the store Jan. 10 and have a grand reopening on Feb. 3.
Lonsway wanted to get her store open before Christmas, even without the sign. She said her first few weeks of business exceeded her expectations.
“I’m on my third reorder of T-shirts,” Lonsway said. She will carry T-shirts with Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day themes as those holidays near.
Customers can also purchase items at her website, BellaAmicaShop.com.
There is very little retail shopping downtown, but Lonsway can sense a demand for it.
“The weekend of the Youngstown Holiday Flea (Dec. 19 and 20), people were coming in here, and they were asking, ‘What else is down here? What else can we do?’ They want to be down here,” Lonsway said. “It’s a shame there is not more [retail].”
At this time, pedestrian traffic is light downtown because most office workers are working from home. Still, folks walking by regularly discover the boutique, walk inside and express delight, she said.
Lonsway plans to take advantage of her downtown location – and the foot traffic it brings – by staying open late on nights when there are festivals, parades or other events. Her regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
A native of the North Side, where she graduated from Ursuline High School and Youngstown State University, Lonsway was based in Detroit, and later New York City, when she worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines, and later Delta after their merger.
The pandemic forced a sharp reduction in flights this year and that led the airline to shed employees.
“In July, Delta offered an early retirement package due to COVID and I took it,” Lonsway said. “I never thought about starting a clothing boutique but I had wanted to do something in downtown, and then this opportunity came up.”
The long and narrow shop formerly housed Vogue Jewelers for decades. The low-key jewelry and watch repair business closed this year amid the pandemic.
To turn it into her boutique, Lonsway painted the walls, installed new flooring and decorated the storefront display window.
Lonsway, whose maiden name is Flanagan, is also the director of the Rosemary Flanagan Ovarian Cancer Foundation, which was started by – and named for – her late mother.
“When she passed away (of ovarian cancer), I kept it going,” Lonsway said.
The foundation has a fundraiser every year at the DoubleTree by Hilton Youngstown Downtown, and also decorates downtown with teal ribbons every September as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Pictured at top: Bella Amica is located in the former Vogue Jewelers at 19 W. Federal St., downtown.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.