Accessories add up for La Grange business women
Frill is a recently opened jewelery and accessory store in downtown La Grange. Boutique co-owner Afkara Mason looks at her necklace in a mirror. | Rob Dicker—Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 29, 2012 1:58AM
LA GRANGE — Want to look like a million bucks without having to spend it?
That’s the attitude behind Frill Accessory Boutique in downtown La Grange, a store that promises “guilt-free indulgences” that can give any outfit that extra bit of pop.
Frill opened in May 2011 and is co-owned by Maureen Longua and Afkara Mason. The pair strive to bring high-fashion jewelry, handbags and other accessories to their customers at a fraction of the high-fashion price.
“We wanted to create a brand and something that was really special,” said Longua. “We don’t want to be just another boutique.”
Longua and Mason met eight years ago when both owned independent shoe stores. Longua owned Pump Shoes in Wicker Park, and Mason owned Afkara Shoes in Forest Park.
“There weren’t a lot of females in the shoe industry at the time and we were both independent store owners, so people assumed would already know each other,” said Longua. “We did eventually meet and started traveling to [shoe] trade shows together.”
Mason’s lease was about to expire for Afkara Shoes and Longua was thinking of closing Pump, so they began talking about their next venture.
The pair chose La Grange for Frill because of its bustling downtown area and charm. Mason, of Oak Park, was familiar with the area and highly recommended it to Longua who has lived in the city since moving to Chicago after college.
“In a lot of ways, La Grange reminds me of the city,” said Longua. “It’s a vibrant place with a lot of energy and it seems young and fresh.”
With its colorful and fun interior design, Frill’s appeal is hard to resist, and the public seems to agree. In September 2011, Longua and Mason opened a second Frill location in Wicker Park, and in September of this year, a third location will open in Lincoln Square.
“The merchandise is mostly consistent between the stores with a little bit of tailoring for the clientele depending on the area, but we get new merchandise every week,” said Mason. “There’s always something new to find.”
The two Frill locations are run by Longua and Mason in addition to six other part-time employees. Longua says they plan to hire another full-time employee to be in charge at the new Lincoln Square.
“We’re on target for building a brand which is exactly what we set out to do,” said Longua. “It’s exciting to set a goal and do it, and after both of us ran a small business for so many years, as amazing as it was, you hit a ceiling for how much you can grow on your own.”
Erin Schaeffer, bookkeeper for Frill, started out as a customer at Longua’s Pump Shoes over ten years ago.
“I was actually working at a boutique across the street from it, and then Maureen stole me away,” said Schaeffer with a laugh. “Since then I’ve been a sales associate, a manager and now I’m the bookkeeper.”
Though Schaeffer now works for Frill, she’s still a customer and a big fan of the funky, hip pieces that Frill offers.
“I have these earring that I bought in several different colors and every time I wear them I get compliments,” said Schaeffer. “I love them.”
Longua and Mason credit hard work and a good selection of store locations for their success.
“In both of our locations, we’re building our relationships with customers and feel like we’ve been embraced by the people and businesses in the area,” said Longua. “We’ve had really good experiences with the other businesses in La Grange and look forward to the future.”