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Brick & Mortar: Kalon Boutique
Empowering women one pretty piece at a time

BY LORI ACKEN
PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Aug. 2019

Urania Gamouras and Jacqueline Lassa

Jacqueline Lassa and Urania Gamouras had been fast friends for decades when they each found themselves at a personal crossroads. Strong women with shared passions for fashion and taking care of others, the pair saw an opportunity to uplift other women in the midst of their own evolution.

Lassa and Gamouras are both veterans of Milwaukee’s fashion scene, Gamouras working in management for the Casual Corner Group and Lassa as a buyer and merchandiser for a Brookfield boutique. As new chapters loomed, the friends found themselves sitting in a car, staring at available retail spaces and frankly discussing what they thought their next steps might look like. The result is Hartland’s Kalon Boutique, which celebrates its third anniversary this month.

“I didn’t want to work for another boutique,” Lassa explains, “so I ended up taking my good friend Urania’s advice. We decided this is what we wanted and we just jumped. I’m so glad we did.”

“She’s more than my friend — she’s my sister,” adds Gamouras, Kalon’s resident jewelry expert, who divides her time between the store and serving as an interpreter for local hospitals. “We are good co-workers and good business partners.”

The pair chose the name Kalon — Greek for beauty that is more than skin deep — for the store, backing it up with a unique philosophy in the often daunting fashion world.

“Body image is so huge,” explains Gamouras of the pair’s carefully curated inventory, which offers plenty of options from a true size two on up to 2X. “We want to be able to dress everyone and make them feel comfortable. In the fashion industry, there’s so much judging. We have daughters and you can see that in them too. … Our customers leave with a certain confidence that Kalon instills in them, and that’s what we do well together. As friends and as business partners, we want to empower women.”

Gamouras and Lassa also embrace a refreshing approach to customer service, making sure that guests are greeted, then stepping back and letting those guests take the lead. “We’re discovering ourselves every day, and when you come in here, that’s what we’re trying to see: What’s your journey? How can we make that journey, in a piece of clothing, make you feel confident, empowered, happy?” says Gamouras. “We get to know them. They come in and visit us just to say hello, not just to see what the latest fashions are.”

The pair also happily sees customers by appointment and extends shop hours to help guests find the perfect piece.

Lassa — daughter of a fashionista mother (who named her after style icon Jacqueline Kennedy) and a shoe-obsessed dad who created Gimbels’ department store’s window displays — works with reps she trusts to understand her sensibility to stock the 2,400 square foot store with quality, accessible shoe, clothing and jewelry lines from around the globe, taking steps to ensure that you won’t find those items in any other local boutique.

“I’m not a big fad person,” Lassa explains. “I’m not a ‘trendy’ person. I like to lead. For fall, I found some browns, which makes me very happy. I love a good, deep, rich, chocolate brown, and you couldn’t find any for the longest time. And I don’t do matchy-matchy with the pants and the coat — black and dark chocolate brown looks stunning to me, just like navy and black looks stunning to me.”

The ladies also understand that some clients have homes in dual locations — most often a warmer climate to counter Wisconsin winters. So they seek selections that will feel fashionable in both locations, but also, says Gamouras “they have to be washable. I don’t want to create a dry-cleaning bill for people. They want to be able to roll it and travel.”

Which, she adds, is also a boon for ladies who travel frequently for work.

On the subject of those Wisconsin winters, Lassa gets the idea that warm doesn’t always equal comfortable, so she selects a variety of stylish sweaters and cozy layers that feel as great as they look. “We don’t like to do wool. It’s great and it’s warm for winter, but it’s itchy and most women don’t like that anywhere on their body,” she says. “We tried little bits — 5 percent, 2 percent, it didn’t matter.

“To outsiders who are listening to us when we’re doing a buying session, it might seem that we’re crazy,” she grins, “but it’s all based on fact. We’re the ones who are selling to you, the customer. We’re listening to what you say.”


This story ran in the August 2019  issue of: