GRAND RAPIDS — A West Michigan couple who launched their business through online platform Etsy in 2014 is now preparing to open their second brick-and-mortar retail store in downtown Grand Rapids.
Kayla and Alex Benda recently opened lifestyle store Courage and Soar next to their first storefront, Oh, Hello Paper and Gifts, which opened at 40 Monroe Center St. NW at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Courage and Soar is a sister business of Oh, Hello Paper and Gifts, where the couple sells their own goods as well as products from 60 local vendors.
“With both stores, we wanted to provide the downtown area with more shopping, because there is so much great food and things to do, but the shopping scene is so limited,” Kayla Benda told MiBiz. “We decided if we wanted to see that we could do it ourselves.”
Courage and Soar is open with about 80 percent of its merchandise stocked. A grand opening is planned for April 21. The store has modern, slightly more upscale pieces and home goods than Oh, Hello, with both women and men’s clothing up to size 3X. The couple also is working to create their own clothing line featuring high-end ware.
“Our effort is to try to make everyone feel included, with sizes up to 3X, and that also includes locally made men’s clothes which is harder to find,” Benda said.
Oh, Hello Paper and Gifts closed for about four months in 2020 during the pandemic-related shutdowns. The Benda’s helped their vendors shift inventory to their website during the early months of the pandemic, but they credit the brick-and-mortar location for their recent success.
“We wouldn’t have been as successful without an online platform, but we couldn’t be as successful as we are without our physical location,” Kayla Benda said.
The Benda’s in the coming months also hope to build off some expected downtown retail momentum when Gazelle Sports opens its new location at 52 Monroe Center St. NW in May.
“They will be the most experienced retailers downtown,” Alex Benda said. “We have created a really great sense of community, and with Gazelle, I think we’re going to see them be more of that for the people of downtown. Them investing in downtown shows other large companies that there is value in downtown.”
“There are awesome things to do here — 90 percent of it is just connecting people to it,” Alex Benda added. “The goal of the summer is to get back to more in-person events and make sure Gazelle is not the only one contributing to downtown.”