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Moxie set to open March 24: New spunky and sassy retail clothing boutique in Berlin

Ruth Schlabach had the building and the seed of an idea. Stefanie Kauffman had the vision and the time. Together, they came up with Moxie, a new upscale retail clothing boutique that’s sure to make downtown Berlin ‘pop!’

Denice Rovira Hazlett

While Stefanie Kauffman recovered from a kidney transplant in November, she thought about the next chapter of her life. After her shocking diagnosis of kidney failure, she’d planned to close the doors of her Millersburg store, 55 West and Company, retreat to a quiet place in the country, and create the unique pieces that had drawn so many to her shop.

But the more she thought about it, the more Kauffman realized that plan wasn’t going to work.

Ruth Schlabach had been eyeing the former Killbuck Savings Bank (KSB) building in Berlin for more than a year. She was enjoying the success of her booming Berlin businesses, The Village Gift Barn and Country Gatherings. She and her husband, Steve, discussed an idea for the KSB building, but decided it just wasn’t time. When the option to buy came up again months later, Schlabach decided to go for it. She wasn’t sure how she would open a third store, but would take each day as it came. It would all work out.

Schlabach wanted to open a resale clothing boutique, sparked by a favorite shop she’d seen out-of-state. She’d call it Emma’s Attic, after her mother. Now she had the idea, the name, and the building. The one thing she didn’t have was time.

“I was really beginning to wonder what I’d gotten myself into,” Schlabach said.

Schlabach knew how she wanted the store to feel, so she stopped at 55 West during Kauffman’s liquidation to purchase display items and fixtures. That’s when she made the offhanded comment that started it all.

“You should come work for me,” Schlabach said.

Kauffman’s immediate reaction? She had no intention of returning to retail. She had her plan--quiet life in the country, painting and creating. Simple. Peaceful.

“I just wanted to hide and heal,” Kauffman said. “When you’re weak and not yourself, it can be very scary.”

Schlabach made her purchases, arranging for Kauffman to store them until her shop was ready for them.

Fall was approaching, Schlabach’s busiest time of the year. She decided she’d wait to focus on the new store until things slowed down for the winter. The best thing, she thought, was to take her time and do it right. But winter never slowed down.

In the meantime, Kauffman was fielding suggestions for what to do post-surgery. People asked if she’d open a new shop. A few folks suggested driving a school bus. Her mom mentioned Ruth Schlabach and the Village Gift Barn.

“Even at almost 40, I didn’t want to listen to my mother,” Kauffman laughed.

And then, Kauffman came to a realization.

“I was doing home dialysis,” Kauffman said, “and I was living this hermit life that I’d envisioned for myself, but it wasn’t making me happy.

“I realized that I’m a people person. I would go crazy without that interaction,” Kauffman said. “These weren’t just customers. They were people I cared about, and they cared about me.”

When Schlabach took Kauffman’s call, she thought Kauffman was reminding her to pick up her things.

“She said she didn’t care about that,” Schlabach said. “She wanted to talk about the offer I’d made. She was serious.”

So they met, realized how well they clicked, and Kauffman pitched the idea of a unique retail clothing boutique as opposed to a consignment shop. They made plans to talk further after Kauffman’s surgery.

“I was overwhelmed by how kind Steve and Ruth were,” Kauffman said, “The whole transplant didn’t phase them. Anyone who can be that understanding, I was excited to work with them.”

Kauffman’s surgery went amazingly well. Her doctors called her “The Transplant Champion.” Within three days, she was threatening to sprint down the hospital halls. During her recovery, her thoughts continually turned to how excited she was about the new venture with Schlabach.

“I envisioned the feel of the shop, and how we could incorporate the things I like to do into this new boutique,” Kauffman said. “I found myself getting lost in the idea of it.”

After three weeks, Kauffman called Schlabach. She was ready to commit. Schlabach was thrilled.

“I needed more people in my life who could take charge,” Schlabach said. “I’m so happy to have someone who knows the business end of running a shop. I can feel free to walk away and let her run things, but still offer her our total support.”

And with that, Schlabach set aside Emma’s Attic for a future project, and a brand new spunky and sassy retail clothing boutique was born--Moxie, set to open the weekend of March 24.

Kauffman said the name sums up what they want to give to women who visit.

“I love ‘Moxie.’ It describes those times when you feel great about what you’re wearing, you feel confident, and you can take on the day. I want women to get that, to feel better about who they are.”

Kauffman said there will definitely be a bit of 55’s flavor thrown in among the wide variety of upscale clothing.

“We still want to have one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces and a small selection of local artists,” Kauffman said. As for the clothing, there will be something for every style preference.

“Village Gift Barn has a lot of unique items right now, with fun cuts and colors and a vintage feel,” Kauffman said. “We’re going to continue with that look, but we’ll mix it up with some clean-line and contemporary clothing, too.”

And while Kauffman’s excited about the new shop, she’s even more excited about the people.

“What really gets me excited about life is meeting all of these unique individuals,” Kauffman said. “You have people from all over the world who come to this area--someone from Pakistan one day, someone from Germany, and then, someone from Benton.”

“I have a strong connection to this community,” Kauffman said. “When my nephrologist asked me what I planned to do after the transplant, I said “live happily ever after, of course.”

For Kauffman, this new project is a great start, and the timing was just perfect.

“When your heart is in it,” Kauffman said, “it all falls into place.”

Published: February 9, 2012
New Article ID: 2012702099999