In 2005, Patti Prowse opened Buttons & Bows, an 800-square-foot women’s clothing store, in Forest. “I’ve had a passion for clothes my whole life. Many years ago, my parents were having a party to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I spent $300 on a dress for that party, instead of buying myself a washer and dryer. My sister thought I was nuts, but that’s just how important clothes are to me!” Prowse had some experience in the fashion industry, but running a retail store was a new and exciting adventure. Over the years, she worked hard to grow her loyal clientele and offer them high-end fashion collections.
In the spring of 2018, Prowse and her husband, Gary, were encouraged by a client’s husband to check out a new retail space in Point Edward. “We had no intention of moving from Forest, but when we opened the back door and stepped into the space, we both said, ‘This is it.’” The Prowses completed most of the renovations themselves and the doors opened on June 2, 2018. Four months later, Prowse leased the other half of the building to expand the retail space and add a kitchen and accessible bathroom. Buttons & Bows, located at 131 Michigan Avenue, in Point Edward is open Monday to Saturday.
Prowse looks for designers that use high quality materials and whose collections are casually elegant and easy to care for. Joseph Ribkoff, Sympli, and Oh My Gauze! are some of Prowse’s current favourite brands, but she is always on the lookout for new designers and ideas. “Shortly after opening in Point Edward, we had so many women asking about plus sizes, we decided to give it a try. Now, one third of our business is plus-size clothing.”
Every March, Buttons & Bows organizes a huge luggage drive for the Women’s Interval Home of Sarnia-Lambton. Prowse is passionate about helping women who have experienced abuse. “When women leave the interval home, they often don’t have any luggage, so they end up using a green garbage bag for their belongings. We collect gently used luggage and clothing here at the store and then deliver it to the interval home.”
Prowse’s daughter, Leigh Anne James manages the store, and Prowse is slowly stepping back. “I probably won’t ever completely let go. I want to do the fun things with Leigh Anne like buying trips and choosing the collections. I still love seeing customers in the store humming or singing to the music and trying on clothes. Working with customers is the best part of my day.”
Buttons & Bows has five part-time employees, two of whom have been with Prowse since she opened in Forest. “Our personal service makes us unique. Everyone who walks through the door is greeted. We are always smiling and friendly but we don’t push. We want all our customers to leave feeling good and looking their best.”