FARGO - Deb Harris teaches music at Concordia College, is the principal flautist for the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and travels the world to play and teach music.
That would keep most folks busy.
So, of course, she’s added another job to the mix.
Harris is co-owner of Elle Michelle. She and her husband Gabriel Monroe opened the boutique Thursday, May 6, to sell vintage and collectible jewelry and other items, such as buttons, mirrors, perfume bottles, furniture, mirrors - even bird cages.
Their tiny storefront is at 1½ 8th St. S., on the edge of downtown.
“I do the collecting. He does the hauling and the fixing and the hanging and the moving,” Harris said Monday, May 3. “I think we’re both best at doing each of those jobs.”
Harris started collecting vintage jewelry at age 10. For the last 30 years, she’s been collecting with the idea of opening a store in mind.
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In January, Harris learned from the previous tenant that the space would be free.
“I just didn’t think that it would happen now, but this space came open,” Harris said. “After this year of COVID, I think I just realized that, well, you can’t just wait around for your dreams. You have to jump on them when you can. So, we decided to go for it.”
It helped that Harris knew several of the shop owners in the area, including Donna Ormiston at Reed & Taylor Antiques, Pam Kinslow of Violet Vintage, and Evelina Shindieva of I Do European Bridal Couture, who encouraged her to open her own place.
Monroe, who’s now retired, helped the building’s owner fix up the space, and he refurbished an antique display case, turning it into the centerpiece of Elle Michelle.
Harris’ jewelry offerings include designer-signed collectables, and art deco, art nouveau, and other unique pieces suitable for weddings and other events.
“I think vintage jewelry is kind of popular. I really like vintage things. I’ve always been attracted to it,” she said. “First of all, I just like the aesthetic of it. But also, as I grew to be an adult, I (found I) really love reusing things. I really love the idea that something has been around for a long time. And usually, things back then were built so well. So really, they’ve passed the test of time.”
Harris, a Francophile who enjoys shopping Parisian flea markets, aims to give the space a “French vibe.”
“As soon as COVID allows, I can’t wait to get back to shop at the flea market. I want to bring something unique to Fargo, that maybe, most shops don’t have,” Harris said.
Harris adds that she wants Elle Michelle to have “a connection to the arts community.”
She’s commissioned friends to create art for Elle Michelle, and she will do consignment sales with some local artists. She also plans to donate a portion of her profits to support the arts locally.
But she won’t be retiring from teaching (32 years - 20 at Concordia and 12 at Minnesota State University Moorhead), or performing (32 years with the FMSO).
“I just wanted to jump on this opportunity. And I like to stay busy. So this will keep us busy,” Harris said, adding that sharing her love of beautiful jewelry is a passion.
“I like to sort of live my passions. You have to kind of go for it while you can,” she said. “You can’t wait for the perfect time.”
Elle Michelle is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Shoppers are asked to wear masks.