When Kim Putens was a few years into launching her Bellacara cosmetics boutique in Old Town Alexandria 11 years ago, a young, cheerful, blond patron approached her with a unique request: She asked to work at the boutique without pay because she was on disability.
A few months later, 29-year-old Stacy Boylan became ill. Then Putens received the bad news in a phone call. “Her life being taken so [soon] really impacted my business partner and I,” Putens said.
After grieving, they began donating annually to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an organization that seeks to cure the lung disease that took Boylan’s life.
After raising between $1,000 and $1,500 each year for the cause, Putens decided to expand the effort to a network she heads consisting of 30 boutiques in Old Town Alexandria.
During the annual Charity Boutique Day, which was held recently, shop owners supported a variety of causes. One collected food for the Capital Area Food Bank, another donated undergarments to the Alexandria Women’s Shelter and another contributed sales proceeds to support Alzheimer’s research.
“We all have made it through the recession mostly intact,” said Amy Rutherford, owner of the Red Barn Mercantile, a furniture and gift store. “[Our customers] have done good by us. This is a way of paying it forward.”
She donated 15 percent of sales that day, raising $300 for the Fisher House, which provides housing for wounded veterans.
The Christmas Attic, a family-owned holiday decoration store, donated 25 percent of sales to the Make a Wish Foundation while also holding an arts and craft activity for kids. Fibre Space, a knit and crochet shop, asked for donations of knitted or crocheted squares for blankets to go to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Belvoir.
Elizabeth Todd, owner of the Shoe Hive, said she chose a charity to which she had a strong personal connection.
“My nephew has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and my husband is on the board,” said Todd, who raised $3,000 through store sales and a matching donation for the Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne. “I think everyone who owns a store wants to give back to their community.”
A framed picture of Stacy Boylan with her husband, Bill, sits at the front of the Bellacara shop where customers check out. “I didn’t know her,” said Brittany Taylor, a sales associate, from behind the cashier’s station, “but apparently she was the nicest person in the world.”