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Elaine Chappelle, right, opened Sweet Sanaa on Dayton Street last month with friends Dawn Malepe, center, and Lisa Ringer. Together they hope to help their stylish and affordable shoes will sell themselves. (Photo by Anisa Kline)

Elaine Chappelle, right, opened Sweet Sanaa on Dayton Street last month with friends Dawn Malepe, center, and Lisa Ringer. Together they hope to help their stylish and affordable shoes will sell themselves. (Photo by Anisa Kline)

Business brings foot fashion to YS

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Yellow Springs is known for many unique products, but fashionable shoes isn’t one of them. Elaine Chappelle is trying to change that with her new boutique shoe store, Sweet Sanaa.

“People don’t expect this kind of store here,” she said in a recent interview, but that doesn’t mean people don’t appreciate the opportunity for a fashionable boutique shopping experience.

“We want to give people options,” said Dawn Malepe, Chappelle’s long-time friend and marketer/publicist for the store. “They’re fashion shoes, and before there was no option” for this kind of shopping in town. “Now there is access to these kinds of shoes, and people are having fun with it.”

This includes villagers, according to Chappelle and Malepe, who have sold to locals and tourists alike in the weeks since their official opening on March 1st.

“Someone who I think they won’t like anything in here, they’ll find something they like and buy it,” Chappelle said, characterizing her store as “for anybody who feels that they want cute shoes.” Lisa Ringer, Sweet Sanaa’s assistant manager describes the shoes they offer as “stylish, but affordable.”

Although Chappelle has wanted to open a business in Yellow Springs for many years, being a wife and mother of three has kept her more than busy until recently.

“I had always wanted to open a shop here in town,” she said. “It seemed so quaint and it seemed possible.” So, some years ago she decided “I’m either going to have a baby or open a shoe store.” Her daughter, Sanaa, came first and her business ideas were put on the back burner for the time being.

Recently, though, with her daughter turning four, Chappelle began to revisit her vision, especially since she thought it would be a good example for her daughter.

“This is something for me to do for my daughter, aside from being a mother. I want her to see that Mom can be mommy and wife but she can also run a business,” Chappelle said. And so, with a store front opening up on Dayton Street, the timing seemed right to pursue her vision.

“It was one of those things where you open up your mouth and share things with people, and the universe provides,” said Malepe, explaining the process of moving the business from an idea to a reality.

For Sweet Sanaa, this meant not only finding a location but also creating a logo, renovating the space to fit their needs and learning the particulars of the shoe retail business.

“I went into it kind of blindly,” Chappelle said. “When I went to my first shoe convention in Atlanta, I felt like a tourist. I didn’t know anything, but I knew what I liked.” Over time, she’s learned how to take her time and shop around before deciding what to purchase for the store.

“You have to keep in mind what you already have,” she said, while also taking into consideration what other people might want. “You’re basically shopping for everyone,” Chappelle explained.

For other aspects of the business, Chappelle and her partners looked for local talent. The striking logo was created by Clay+Stan, the graphic design business run by Urban Handmade owners DJ and Justin Galvin, and the renovations were done by local contractors Chris Salazar and Tommaso Gregor.

As the opening date approached, the team was also assisted by friends in creating the finishing touches for the look they wanted their boutique to achieve.

“We wanted something clean and simple,” Malepe said. “And we’re blessed to have really good friends, so that when we were really tired and couldn’t think anymore, they would come in and help.”

The result is a bright, clean and welcoming space that people like coming into, complete with a strategically placed “husband chair,” red benches and well-lit displays of shoes.

“We find that people like coming in just for a chat,” Ringer said, which is exactly the kind of space the women wanted to create.

“We’re offering an experience,” Chapelle said, contrasting their boutique to shopping for shoes online. “People can come in, have customer service, feel a little pampered. It’s nice to be able to come in and try things on and make a personal connection.”

“We’re not pressuring,” said Ringer, explaining the experience they hope Sweet Sanaa can offer women. “We want people to really be happy with their purchase.”

“I don’t want them to feel like they have to buy anything,” added Chappelle. “I tell people to come in and just say hi. We’re not so much selling as providing a service — the shoes sell themselves.”

* The writer is a freelance contributor to the Yellow Springs News.

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