Owner: Mari Barnes
Boutique Addresses: 5028 North Clark Street, Chicago; 2112 Central, Evanston; 202 South Cook, Barrington.
Web site: notice-this.com
Born in 1955, Mari Barnes grew up in Northbrook "before anything was there." She went off to college, met her husband and, eventually, had three children. The two older girls, Becky and Hannah, now work with Barnes in her popular chain of boutiques under the Notice name. But before Notice, Mari and her husband, Charlie, opened a picture frame shop—The Custom Framer—in 1985 in Highland Park that still exists today. As small business entrepreneurs, the Barnes family was very active in their local community. Over the course of 20 years, Mari even served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, on the City Council, and as Township Supervisor. In 2007, she opened Notice inside their frame shop and has since expanded to stores in Chicago, Barrington, and Evanston.
Briefly describe the boutique and its wares.
Notice, with its mix of goods, is more like a contemporary general store than a boutique. It carries women’s apparel from lines including Bailey 44, Trina Turk, 525 America and Skunkfunk, as well as handbags, jewelry, and more candle lines than a candle shop. Customers can buy gifts ranging from a Kate Spade mug to a Graf & Lanz felt tote, while also updating their wardrobe with a fabulous new dress or a fashion-forward legging with tummy control by Lysse.
How would you describe the point of view of your store?
In a world where shopping has become a race for the lowest price and quickest reward, we find ourselves positioned in a place that puts customer service and good value at the forefront. We are conscious that our customers want value for their money, but they come to us for more than just that. Having a great mix of apparel and "giftables" (including free gift wrapping) means the customer can feel accomplished when she leaves, whether she's shopping for herself, others, or both. We also put a tremendous amount of effort into store design and upkeep, which leads many customers to think we are a chain store.
Who is your customer?
A woman between the age of 28 and 68, sometimes shopping for herself, her mom, a new baby or even the belligerent teenager.
What do you love most about your work?
When customers tell us they love our mix of goods and that they think we have great taste!
What inspires you the most in life and work?
I get to work with my children, so I never wonder if we are all on the same page. I also spent many years in social services and understand the basic need of people to feel like they matter.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
My father told me, “It’s human nature to want something for nothing. But once you set them straight that there is value to what you do, they will pay for it.” He was referring to his wealthy friend that never had money to pay for anything! I also learned early on that paying your bills on time needs to be a number one priority for a small business. It is the only way to get the people you may need to listen.