It’s the end of an era for Arabella Higgins who will be closing her popular downtown clothing and shoe boutique within the next few weeks. As soon as the merchandise runs out, Higgins said her 13-year-old business, , located at 1156 Main St., will be closing up shop for good. Another retail shop is eyeing the space at the moment, stated Higgins. ()
Just this year, Higgins said she had started thinking about closing but not for reasons some may speculate. Though a slow economy has affected many small businesses, Higgins maintains that her family is the reason she’s decided to take a different path. “I was getting to the point where I had enough,” she commented.
Her 10-year-old daughter Bella Higgins who is about to enter fifth grade at is overjoyed that her mom will be spending more time at home. Last week as a liquidation sale had Arabella’s door constantly revolving, Bella helped her mom wrap purchases and chatted about the coming change. “I am really happy,” exclaimed Bella. “We’ll get to do more stuff together… put a puzzle together, ride our bikes because we haven’t been able to do that. I like going for bike rides with my mom.”
Shopper Priscilla Taggart said she’s not sad to see Arabella close at all because she believes Higgins is doing it for “all the right reasons.” Taggart explained, “…to be at home with her kids at an age she feels is really important and that’s unusual.”
Higgins who also has a six-year-old daughter, Gabby, said, “I love it but I want to be with my kids. I want to be able to go on field trips and not feel guilty that I am not here or have to leave to go on a trip to have to go buy when I should be with them.”
Thirteen years ago, Arabella and her sister Jennifer Indek opened Arabella in what was formerly an “old green house.”
“The price was right,” said Arabella and she and her family transformed the space – the building is still owned by Arabella’s father Robert G. Bartner – into a valuable piece of real estate.
Deciding to open Arabella, a boutique offering trendy shoes, clothing and accessories, was the brainchild of Higgins who applied her fashion merchandising degree and entrepreneurial upbringing to come up with the concept.
“I did my demographics and I sat in the towns and watched the towns and decided where I wanted to do it,” said Higgins.
A Brookfield native, Higgins’ mother owned an antique shop, European Country Antiques, and a giftware shop, Marie Daniel Design. Higgins moved Marie Daniel Design to Guilford and ran the shop on the town Green for several years before opening Arabella in Branford in 1998 and making the switch from gifts and antiques to shoes and clothing. Marie Daniel is no longer open in Guilford.
For many years, Arabella enjoyed success downtown in Branford. “Even now,” said Higgins who currently resides in Branford, “I come in and this is mine – I created this.” Deciding to close she added, wasn’t easy. “There was a lot of crying, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of anxiety. Not only the town, but the employees… they are like family. It was very hard.”
Motioning to the – a feature added to the little green house when it was purchased by the family – she said, “I love the town; the people. You could be here at night doing things and there are just people walking down the street at 11 o’clock at night. It’s just a very nice homey town.”
Hairstylist Celines Nieves who works at was shopping at Arabella last week and commented how sad she was to see Higgins go. “They are very good-hearted people, very family-oriented, very giving, very loving. I couldn’t have encountered a better family or a better person. I can’t even talk… I get choked. I’ve seen her kids grow up before my eyes.”
In addition to spending more time with her family, which includes husband Mike Higgins, Higgins is partnering with of the to open a pre-school. The two have their sights set on running a program for up to 16 children at (the old school house) in . Currently Higgins and Doyle are in the process of getting permits approved by the town. The earliest date they could open is January 2013.
As change comes on the horizon for Higgins, she shares a final message as the owner of Arabella: “Thank you for all the support. Yes, I am closing but I am not leaving.”
Check Arabella’s Facebook page for final closure notice.