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While setting up her soon-to-be opened boutique shop on North Tower Avenue, people were knocking on the windows and peeking in, wondering what Tasha Ohlig’s new store was going to be. It was a promising sign.
Residents received their answer sooner than Ohlig expected after the Centralia Downtown Association stopped by near the end of October and said it was holding an upcoming Shop Small Saturday event, aimed at bringing people downtown to support small businesses on the cusp of the holiday season.
“So we just kind of threw everything together and opened as quickly as we possibly could and opened early,” Ohlig said.
It ended up being a fortuitous payoff. Customers poured in to Willow & RUST Boutique, clamoring to see what the brand-new boutique store had to offer.
Ohlig could finally breathe a sigh and relief. She was laid off from her job in the events industry in March and then permanently lost her job in August, after a 17-year career, when the pandemic shuttered most events nationwide.
“We all knew the events industry wasn’t coming back any time soon, so I just needed to shift my career focus,” Ohlig said.
She was living in Vancouver, Washington at the time, while her mother lived in Centralia. Ohlig happened to see the empty store space on North Tower Avenue when she was in town visiting and asked her mom if she would join her in an adventure.
The mother and daughter duo had already been selling vintage fabric online for about five or six years. They had also co-owned a flower shop in Vancouver about 20 years ago. Plus, moving to Centralia to start a new store would allow the mother and daughter team to spend more time together.
Willow & RUST Boutique offers a menagerie of items, but is primarily focused on fresh flowers, plants, gift baskets, vintage clothing and linens, handmade soaps, jewelry and garden decor.
Ohlig is already looking forward to Valentine’s Day, when she will offer a huge selection of gifts, including roses, with local delivery available. This summer, she plans to offer more outdoor and garden-and-patio items, such as plants, planters and hanging baskets.
Currently, the store offers a wide variety of flowers, including hand bouquets daily, floral arrangements, roses and herb gardens, and it does take orders over the phone. For specific orders, the store requires 24-hour notice, as Ohlig said there’s no local fresh flower market.
One encouraging sign, Ohlig said, is the Centralia community is much more supportive and appreciative of downtown small businesses than the larger city of Vancouver is.
“There’s a real sense of community in Centralia, which I love,” Ohlig said.
She also thinks once indoor dining opens back up that even more customers will be stopping by, being that her store is right next to McMenamins Olympic Club restaurant and hotel. Business has still been good these past couple months, but most customers to the next-door restaurant have just been dropping by to grab their to-go food and leaving. Once they’re able to sit down and eat, she expects more people to be stopping by her boutique shop as well.
Luckily, the landlord offered them a one-year lease to try things out and see how business goes for the first 12 months. But Ohlig is optimistic that the store will make it through the other side and become a mainstay in the community. Some of Willow & RUST Boutique’s Facebook posts have already been seen by up to 7,000 people.
“We’re really going to push for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll see us on social media a ton,” Ohlig said. “We’re going to start taking pre-orders so people can get their delivery spots reserved.”
Willow & RUST Boutique is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday and Monday.
More Information on Willow & RUST Boutique
Owner: Tisha Ohlig
Location: 108 N. Tower Ave., Centralia
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday and Monday