What’s a good birthday gift for a woman turning 40? That’s the question that led best friends, Davi Berk and Paula Zacharia to open Winnetka’s Willow Boutique, the high-end accessories boutique that’s celebrating three years in business this month.
“Our friends were all turning 40, and we were looking for gifts for them, and there really were no stores that offered really beautiful, unique accessories at affordable prices,” said Berk. “We saw a niche in the market.”
Berk and Zacharia both grew up in the Northbrook subdivision, The Willows, and met in kindergarten at Willowbrook Elementary School, hence the name they chose for their boutique.
While best friends for almost four decades, each had very different professional backgrounds before becoming business partners.
Zacharia, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising had a 12-year career in sales and management for the Chicago-based apparel store, Fatigues, which closed a few years ago.
“At Fatigues it was all about customer service,” said Zacharia, who lives in Northbrook with her husband, Phil and their three children. “We never said no and we did what we needed to do to make customers happy. I took that philosophy over into this business.”
As for Berk, she worked as a litigation attorney for 12 years, and said she decided to make the major career change because she’s always loved shopping and fashion, and had a gut feeling Willow Boutique would thrive.
“Women love accessories because they finish you,” said Berk, who also lives in Northbrook and who also has three children with her husband, Brian. “They can dress you up or dress you down, and they can really make an old outfit new.”
Willow Boutique carries an array of jewelry, handbags, belts and other accessories, with a focus on unique items.
“People in this area and throughout the North Shore don’t want to see people wearing the same thing they are wearing. They want to be original,” Berk said. “We make it a point to find things that are new and for now, while keeping a classic look.”
Showcasing designers that include Linea Pelle, Carla Mancini, Lauren Merkin, Marcia Moran, Sonya Renee, Aviva Rose and Rachel Olesker, who come from both the Chicago area and from cities all over the world, price points at Willow Boutique range from $35 to $1,000.
When asked why they chose Winnetka for the store’s location, Berk said they felt it was centrally located, and thereby convenient for shoppers both from the North Shore and Chicago.
Sheila Kane, of Winnetka, has been a customer since the store opened, describing herself as “a big jewelry person.”
“That perfect piece of jewelry can make an outfit complete and beautiful,” said Kane. “Both Davi and Paula are great at layering jewelry and matching it with outfits, both fancy and casual.”
What’s in for summer? According to Zacharia, color.
“Blues, oranges, greens,” she said. “They’re showing a lot of pattern for clothing, so accessories are solids.”
“Accessories are a great way to add a pop of color without having to buy an expensive outfit,” Berk said. “That’s one of the reasons this store has been so successful.”