Two Longtime Friends Share Their Love Of Fashion Biz

By Ilene Aleshire
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

A new retailer has moved into downtown Eugene, with a grand opening scheduled for this weekend.

Gilt+Gossamer is the creation of two longtime friends, one a controller at a software development firm in Indianapolis, the other a Chicago-based hospice worker turned boutique owner.

Melissa Achtien and Sheila Jesionowski met more than 20 years ago in Indiana, when their daughters were both playing soccer. Their friendship remained strong even after Jesionowski moved to Chicago and Achtien moved to Eugene when her husband was offered a job here.

“Sheila was a hospice worker for children,” Achtien said. “She got burned out and began working in a boutique for fun.”

Jesionowksi enjoyed it so much that she opened her own boutique, at Purdue University, followed by two more at the University of Arizona.

She has since sold the brick and mortar stores but continues to operate an online boutique.

Achtien also was ready for a change after moving to Eugene: “I wanted to transition, I wanted to do something other than accounting, which I’ve done all my life.”

And, she said Thursday, “I fell in love with Eugene, I wanted to be part of the downtown revitalization.”

Achtien found what she describes as “a really cool space with exposed brick walls” at Eighth Avenue and Willamette Street.

All told, she said, the partners have invested about $40,000 in the 2,000-square-foot boutique, which employs five people.

Achtien and Jesionowksi know that a number of new boutiques have opened in Eugene and Springfield in the last year or two, including in downtown Eugene, but see that as a positive, Achtien said.

First, Achtien said, she and Jesionowski are targeting a lower price point than what she’s seen at other boutiques. A sequined sheath, for example, is $38.

“We’re really targeting the college kids — we’ve got the ‘Free People’ (brand) — although there are also plenty of people my age — I’m 55 — buying cute things in the store.”

Second, while the inventory is currently focused on women’s clothing, particularly young styles, “We’re going to start carrying men’s clothing in the spring,” Achtien said. “That is going to be huge.”

And third, the proliferation of new stores will, in the long run, benefit all of them, Achtien said: “The whole thing will be symbiotic.”
If she doesn’t have the style or size a customer is seeking, for example, she would send them to another local boutique, such as Velvet Edge, Achtien said.

And, as more businesses continue to move into the area, “it becomes a shopping destination, and that’s going to benefit everybody.”

Achtien said she’s continuing to commute to her financial job in Indianapolis every other week, but hopes to transition to full-time living and working in Eugene later this year.

For More information: or on Facebook at giltboutiqueeugene

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