With larger location, Bel Air's Velvet Trunk has space to entertain

Marissa Drayton-Smalley wanted a larger space to offer her customers a better shopping experience. That meant moving her beloved Bel Air fashion boutique, Velvet Trunk, to a much larger 1,800-square-foot location along Main Street this past summer.

“It allows for easier movement throughout the store,” the 40-year-old Parkville resident says. “People can have different looks and styles to search.”

The new space, which was a former bank that remained empty for years, has allowed Drayton-Smalley to expand her shoes and accessories offerings as well as gifts such as hand lotions and candles. The older location was 600 square feet.

“It’s definitely a better space for entertaining,” she says in reference to the shop’s crisp white walls with touches of gold and warm wood. “We will be doing events like girl’s night entertaining.”

Drayton-Smalley was born in Louisiana and lived in a number of states as part of a military family before attending Colorado State University, where she earned a degree in 2008 in fashion merchandising.

“I always knew since I was young that I loved styling and fashion,” she says, talking about making the jump to open her boutique two years ago. “I’ve always been a manager in a number of different retailers. I knew that I was ready to break free of being under the corporate umbrella of retail. I needed to branch out on my own and create a more unique retail experience.”

It was a desire to be near family on the East Coast that brought her to Maryland, while the growth opportunities attracted her to set up a business in Harford County.

“Bel Air was quintessential Main Street America. When I came down here and felt how friendly it was and how much opportunity it had for growth, there was no doubt about it — this was where I wanted to open a shop,” she says.

Drayton-Smalley’s customers echo their love of the boutique.

“Marissa is a genius stylist,” says Bel Air-based customer Liz Clarkson. “Her attention to detail is impeccable. She just knows how to look at you and know exactly what looks amazing on you. The shop is warm. There’s always something that any girl would want in her closet. She has great taste. And every piece is unique. I just absolutely love walking into her shop and getting my specialties from her shop.”

Clarkson has been a loyal customer for the past two years. In addition to all the staples she’s purchased, she raves about the trendy finds.

“My favorite purchase is this black motto jacket. It’s very chic. It’s edgy and dainty at the same time,” she says. “I wear it all the time.”

Almost all of the merchandise in the boutique is priced at less than $100. Drayton-Smalley sells smaller gifts such as a cosmetic bag that costs $14.50, while a plush pair of over the knee boots costs $105. The average clothing item is $50.

Marina Cooper drives from Towson to frequent the boutique.

“I visited one day and she hooked me up,” Cooper recalls. “I walk into a place not knowing what to pick up. And she’s great pulling things together.”

10 S. Main St., Bel Air, 410-638-5900; velvettrunk.shoptiques.com

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