Amy Fonville founded Talulah Belle, a feel-good lifestyle boutique, in 2008. The Rochester shop is a warm space where customers can purchase items that make them feel a little happier.
By Ri’An Jackson
Photography by Derrick Martinez
At Talulah Belle, you can peruse chic apparel, self-help books and home décor or relax on a sofa and unwind from a busy day.
The go-to lifestyle boutique at 307 S. Main St. in Rochester was founded by Troy resident Amy Fonville and seeks to connect with consumers on an emotional level. The store is posh and simple, yet cozy — with a neutral color palette and sofas throughout for customers’ comfort.
Fonville, 51, says shopping at the boutique is therapeutic for customers, who sometimes hang around the store for hours sitting or browsing merchandise.
Yet it took time for the interior designer to develop her store. A Dearborn native, Fonville graduated from Michigan State University and began working at Electronic Data Systems. She loathed the environment of the desk job.
“I would just sit in my cube every day and think about ways to decorate it,” she says. “I just hated it.”
And she wouldn’t be completely satisfied with her profession until she returned to school to pursue interior design. “I just always loved how design made people feel,” she says, explaining she started her own interior design business.
In 2008, Fonville turned her passion into a 900-square-foot building on 3rd Street in Rochester. Inspired by her sister who has owned a store in Dallas for 17 years, she decided she was ready for a new venture — Talulah Belle.
“It was in 2008, when the economy was really low, but since the rent was so low, I took a stab at it,” she says. “It was just a perfect evolution of my life after (pursuing) interior design.”
She renovated the space — which used to be home to Rochester’s original printing press — into a modern land of inspiration and style, selling everything from coffee table books to clothing.
In the first year, she ran much of the business herself. She did everything from accounting to social media to buying and selling on her own until she found others to alleviate the workload.
Despite the sinking economy, the little shop persisted. “Who would’ve thought people would be buying stuff back then when the economy was so lousy?” Fonville says. “But it ended up (working out).”
She upgraded the boutique in 2012. Relocating to a 1,500-square-foot location on Main Street, she renovated the space in three months, styling it to be equal parts chic and cozy.
“I never go for a color scheme,” she says. “When I see something, if it just speaks to my heart, then I am going to get it.”
The merchandise — a mix of self-help gifts and apparel — is meaningful, Fonville says. They solve problems and come from vendors that are passionate about solving those problems.
“It’s just all these things that promote a happy living for a client,” she adds. “If someone’s feeling really down, they can find something here.”
Sales representative Katie Fox, 54, says the shop has “a strong presence in Rochester.” Fox represents Compendium, a Seattle-based inspirational book brand that has been featured at Talulah Belle for 10 years.
“(Talulah Belle) is great because you can find things for your own lifestyle and home,” she says, “but then you have gifts for friends for those gifting occasions.”
Fonville strives to continue connecting with people. She is constantly experimenting with new concepts in the store and now hosts events at the boutique like rooftop yoga and jewelry shows.
“Our mission is beautiful giving, modern living,” she says. “It’s not about a hard sell…we’re about connecting people and listening to their stories, and somehow the sales just kind of happen.”
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307 S. Main St., Rochester