Some people don’t settle into retirement the way others do. For Annmarie Beard, she decided to start a whole new chapter of life. The original plan was to make jewelry, T-shirts and hair bows to sell at craft shows, but one day local shop owners suggested that she open her own boutique. Beard’s eyes widened at the thought. Her grandparents used to own a Ben Franklin store, and as a little girl she would go into the store to cut fabric and weigh candy.
“I think that’s where my spark for retail came from,” Beard says.
She opened Annmarie’s Boutique, initially renting a tiny, 450-square-foot room in Tipton. When a bigger store became available, she moved to that location.
“The Tipton store has done really well, but I live in Kokomo and I longed to bring that boutique to my hometown,” Beard says. Last year she and her husband Tim bought the old Blye’s bridal shop, which had been a staple in downtown Kokomo since the 1960s. It required some TLC, but the pair was up for the challenge. They started by refurbishing the downstairs and opened Annmarie’s in June of 2021.
“It’s been absolutely wonderful having two boutiques,” Beard says.
On the upper level, they took all the floors down to the original 1885 flooring and took the plaster off the walls to expose the bricks. She recently opened the second story, which she named The Upper Level Downtown. It’s an event space that the public can rent for graduation or birthday parties, bridal or baby showers, micro-weddings, and photo shoots. The space is available for all-day rental for $400, or half-day rental for $200. Photographers can rent it out for 30-minute time slots for $25, which they appreciate since the big, beautiful windows let in lots of natural light.
“It’s a neat-looking space with a vintage style, modern accents and crystal chandeliers,” Beard says. “It has lounge space up front with couches, chairs, lots of plants and macramé. It’s a fun, comfortable bohemian kind of space.”
Recently a group of women came into Annmarie’s to shop, then went upstairs for a yoga class. The store and event space pair nicely for functions like bridal showers, as guests can shop at the boutique and then head upstairs for the festivities.
When Beard revamped the upstairs, her vision was to make it an affordable space for the people of Kokomo and surrounding communities.
“There are some beautiful event centers in Kokomo but they’re pricey,” Beard says. “I’m all about affordability.”
This is why her boutique items are reasonably priced. When she first opened, she was sending her designs to a girl who made her T-shirts, charging Beard $14 to $16 per shirt. After a while, Beard decided to cut out the middle man by making her own. That means she can now sell her T-shirts for $16 to $20. Her bestselling custom tee says, “She grew up in an Indiana town.”
“We sell a lot of Indiana-based things,” Beard says. She also sells “Boy Mom” and “Girl Mom” T-shirts, and tie-dyes that say, “Make love, not war” and “Teach peace.”
Because prices are so affordable, merchandise goes quickly. As a result, every day there is new merchandise on the shelves, including purses, hats, jewelry, sandals and a small selection of prom dresses, none of which costs more than $99.
“A lot of people can’t afford a $400 dress to wear for just two or three hours,” Beard says.
The clothing Beard sells at Annmarie’s Boutique is trendy and suits people of all ages.
“My oldest customer is nearly 100 years old, and she comes in with her daughter and granddaughter to shop,” says Beard, who carries a variety of sizes, making sure to have plenty of options for curvy women.
Beard’s favorite part of owning Annmarie’s is the camaraderie of running a small business that supports other small businesses.
“I’ve always had this mantra of, ‘If you shine, I shine,’” Beard says. “We all help one another out so we succeed.”
Speaking of success, she credits her husband’s unwavering support for helping her prosper. They have known each other since high school, when they were friends but never dated. They reconnected 10 years ago.
“Our paths crossed at just the right time, though he often says, ‘We could have been together all these years if you had just kissed me in high school!’” Beard says.
When they wed, their wedding vows stated, “In life, love and business, we are partners.”
He cooks breakfast and dinner, takes care of the home and the dogs, and is her biggest fan.
“He’s so supportive of the business and anything I need,” Beard says. “It’s so nice to have a supportive partner.”
Beard, who turns 64 in May, has no plans to slow down.
“I can’t imagine not doing this, so I’ll do it for as long as I possibly can,” she says.
Several years ago Beard battled breast cancer. Following surgery, she returned to work within a week because she missed it so much.
“I said, ‘I can walk and talk and use my T-rex arms,’” Beard says with a chuckle. “I just wanted to be at work because being here is like having a vacation that never ends. I love it.”
Annmarie’s Boutique is located at 219 North Main Street in Kokomo. For more information, call 765-865-8940 or find them on Facebook.