kelli dariano.

tiffin, ohio.  |  sister. daughter. aunt. fairy godmother. boutique owner.

I would be remiss not to highlight shop owner Kelli Dariano during the hectic holiday shopping season. Kelli and I are Godmothers to sweet Finnegan Hook Cooper, so I have frequented her popular Threads Boutique a time or two, or three. Kelli is the woman you meet just once, and every time you see her again – whether it be one year or four years later – she treats you like you just had coffee with her yesterday afternoon. Kelli is always in the know when it comes to classic style or hip trends. I’d be willing to bet that if you called her shop today, she would be able to rattle off a dozen gift ideas that never crossed your mind. (To be fair, don’t call her shop for such ideas until after Christmas. This woman is working extra hard for her money this week.) What do I admire most about this small-business owner? She has incredible drive and she loves to laugh. Owning a boutique takes serious determination, and this lady has that and a whole lot more. Friends, allow me to introduce you to Kelli. Perhaps she will inspire you to support small-business owners or open a shop of your very own.

How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?

Oh the life I lead … I definitely define my life as an evolution. The little girl who wanted to be a scientist grew up to be a shopkeeper. Often surprised by what life presents, I have made it a point to consider most options, even if for a fleeting moment!            

What is your best advice to someone who wishes to open a clothing boutique?

The fashion industry is so dynamic. Changes happen daily, globally, and from so many angles, making it challenging. Research and know your business. Know the financing, the newest technology, and be ready for an all-consuming roller coaster ride. Most of all, know your customer. This business is not always about what YOU love. It is about what your customers will BUY.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

Obstacles. I feel like I have too many … and I have no sense of direction to navigate them.

Let’s talk shop. I am guessing you work over 60 hours a week during the holidays. How do you get through the brutal shopping season? Is there a bottle of vodka tucked under your cash register?

You are right about the 60-70 hour holiday workweeks. I anticipate them and even dread them—but when Thanksgiving winds down something special happens; I always wind up and the hours fly by. I am stunned at how quickly days pass. How do I get through? Most people worry about gaining weight during the holidays … I lose it. (That’s a bonus, right?) Seriously, I get so nervous about getting sick and not being able to be at the shop, that I start guzzling water, eating those super cute new Vitamin C chews, pack my healthier lunches, and pray. Honestly, I think adrenaline gets me through every year. Adrenaline and joy. I am seriously joyful when I help find the perfect gift, or an item that makes someone feel good about themselves. I feel joy when a new employee gains confidence and I LOVE saying Thank You for shopping locally or Merry Christmas to people all day long.

A hypothetical situation: If I came into your shop and tried on a fabulous dress, that was … well, less than flattering. What words do you use to redirect me to a better fitting garment? And then, what if I don’t listen and buy it anyway?

My favorite thing to say is “I think we can do better.” When diplomacy doesn’t work, I have to pull out the brutal honesty and just throw some truth out there. That’s just how I roll. I want my customers to look and feel their best. After that, I cannot fight my people … sigh …

Do you ever feel guilty? If yes … what for?

I feel guilty all the time. Way too much to talk about on this subject.

What gets you through a rough day?

I tend to find a joke to get me through all bad situations. (I feel guilty about that, but it really does help me.) Oh, and I know I am not funny, but the bad jokes always seem to do the trick. (Again, the guilt. Admittedly, the jokes can get pretty bad.) And during this time of year, my shop playlist helps keep me going. It is a compilation of 15 years of Christmas songs and at least once a day I hear Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” Now that helps me get through a rough day!

If you had to grab 2 items out of your closet before it caught on fire, what would you save from the burning flames?

Those burning flames could not take my wide leg black pants! These pants. Oh, I love them. In a world where everything is skinny right now, these—a little bit too tight black pants—are irreplaceable. If you are a curvy girl, you know what I mean. Sure I can embrace trend and wear the skinnies but nothing balances my curves and makes me feel better, than the perfect combination of the wide leg with high heels! And if I had two pairs of those black pants, item number two would be the same thing.

What’s hot for Holiday 2014?

Accessories, ladies! Bangles, bangles & more bangles. (Don’t you love to hear the jingle?) Cozy Scarves, Metallic Leather, and most definitely, a clutch.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

Graceful I am not. In fact, I am a bull in a china shop. However, I live my life with gratitude and feel it is important to be considerate of others. That is what I pray for the most everyday.

j. jane side note:

If you find yourself near Tiffin, Ohio, stop in for a visit with Kelli Dariano. WARNING: You will not walk out of her boutique without a fabulous new treasure. Never make it to Ohio? You may visit her on Facebook

No Comments
  • Mike
    Posted at 03:50h, 25 December

    Kelli is a real treasure bringing character and value to a small town. A great person who has always had the right attitude for every situation. Thanks for helping her tell her story in your blog!

    • Jessica Stern
      Posted at 11:52h, 25 December

      Well said, Mike. Kelli is a real treasure! Thanks for stopping by to learn from one of my favorite ladies.