It’s relatively rare for a store owner to willingly close down, just to open in the same city several months later. But that’s just what Katia Garçon, formerly of Katia Boutiques at 614 West Ave. and now running House of Katia on the second floor of 12 Main St. in Norwalk, has done.
“It really came down to space,” Garçon said at her new store, which opened Nov. 8 with a “grand re-opening” in Norwalk’s popular Wall Street Arts District. “The traffic we were getting (at the 600-square-foot West Avenue location) was nice, but I could not service my clients the right way.
“This is meant to be a personal styling boutique,” she continued. “I like to sit down with you one on one, or invade your closet with the right products that you need. Plus I needed space to entertain, to make people feel like they’re a part of what’s going on.”
What hasn’t changed at the new boutique, consisting of 1,200 square feet, is the Katia’s retail experience, she said. In addition to personal styling and fine jewelry design, the store offers casual and upscale styles “for women of all curves,” Garçon said, with merchandise from both international manufacturers and local designers.
House of Katia’s entertainment space will feature artists, painters, authors, wine tastings and networking events. “I want it to feel like a little New York City space that’s comfortable and allows for people to get to know each other,” she said.
Garçon, who before returning to Norwalk several years ago founded Henri Garçon, a Manhattan-based company that designed and created commissioned fine jewelry, said her interest in stones began at a young age.
“I came to the United States (from Haiti) with my parents when I was 5 years old,” she recalled. “We moved around a lot, from state to state, until we finally got it right in Norwalk.
“I was always picking up little rocks as remembrances of places, little souvenirs,” she continued. “Then when I was in my early 20s, at a time when I wasn’t really very happy, my mother said, ‘People make careers out of what you’ve been doing.’ I didn’t believe her at first, but I eventually made my way to the Gemological Institute of America, where they taught me how to really touch, feel and understand stones.”
Learning how to create fine jewelry, Garçon ended up earning GG (Graduate Gemologist) and JDT (Jewelry Design Technology) degrees from the institute, setting her on what she said is her life’s career path.
“What’s important, besides understanding what works, is understanding when things are not working correctly,” she said about designing jewelry. “You can make something that’s the most beautiful piece in the world, but if it falls apart, what’s the point?”
Garçon makes use of cutting-edge technology when creating pieces for her clients, including 3-D software that allows for on-the-spot discussions of what the customer prefers — or, in some cases, learn about a new design they hadn’t considered before.
Garçon is also a licensed jewelry appraiser. She regularly works with estate attorneys to assess the value of heirlooms that have been passed down.
But that business is hardly all about the past, she noted. “Fashion changes. Everything should be appraised every eight to 10 years.”
And when Garçon says she “invades” her clients’ closets, she’s not exaggerating. Through her House of Katia’s Style Subscription, a service that promises clients greater access to her expertise, customers can receive discounts on all purchases, ongoing wardrobe consultations and a “personal closet assessment.”
“It’s a way of keeping people accountable who only see me every three months,” she laughed. “I can honestly answer the question, ‘How do I look?’ regardless of what your friends or family members say. And I respond within 30 minutes — ‘You have to change those earrings, change those shoes!’”
It’s important, she added, “to repurpose the things we have and love. If I know everything that’s going on in your closet, I can help a client when they’re going out to a special event. Even if it comes down to asking, ‘Are you prepared to go out like that?’ ”
The monthly subscription is being offered at an initial rate of $29.99 per month. “I try to keep things economical,” Garçon said. “And it sends the message that I’m there when you need me.”
Garçon took about a year to find the new space and roughly six months to renovate it to her liking.
“I couldn’t believe how my clients had missed me so much!” she enthused. “We probably had about 80 to 85 people at the grand re-opening. The mayor (Harry Rilling) and his wife have always been so supportive, and we had members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce here. It was so wonderful to have that kind of support.”