BANGOR, Maine — A favorite shopping destination for women in Greater Bangor will remain open despite its owner’s plans to head to a new destination with her family.
Bella Luna, a popular women’s fashion boutique that opened in downtown Bangor nearly four years ago, is for sale, but will not be closing anytime soon, according to owner Heather Van Frankenhuyzen.
“We haven’t heard anything yet [from prospective buyers], but we’ve kept it very quiet because we didn’t want people to think we were going out of business,” said Van Frankenhuyzen, who first announced the news through a Facebook update at 2:30 a.m. Friday. “It’s been very secret up until now because we weren’t 100 percent.”
Van Frankenhuyzen, husband and co-owner Ahmed Abdelmageed, their 3-year-old daughter and 3-month old son will be moving to Fort Wayne, Ind., in one month to be closer to both Van Frankenhuyzen’s and Abdelmageed’s families, who all live in Michigan.
It was a difficult decision.
“It is, yeah. We had to do what was best for our kids and family,” she said.
Abdelmageed is a pharmacist who initially came to Bangor with his wife to take a job, and she immediately felt at home here.
“We’ve lived here six years now on Penobscot Street,” said Van Frankenhuyzen, who has a degree in fashion design and creates her own jewelry. “We moved here from Seattle, where I managed a boutique. We really fell in love with Bangor, me more so because I was more used to smaller towns.”
It’s that connection and the trust she has with her staff that made Van Frankenhuyzen want to keep the store located at 48 Main St. open in her absence.
“It really is because I feel a responsibility to downtown and our loyal customer base and we feel strongly about the downtown community and how much energy there is here now,” she explained. “I want to keep that going.”
Bella Luna will be run by in-house designer Jessi Sader, who joined the staff in January, along with Sarah Pelletier and Charlotte Howson, who are also both full-time students.
“I have full trust and confidence in them. They all started out as customers who I got to know and asked to work with me,” said Van Frankenhuyzen, who prides herself on selling a lot of one-of-a-kind and exclusive items that are local in nature.
In fact, since opening in November 2007, Van Frankenhuyzen estimates she’s gone from an inventory of 40 percent locally produced items to 90 percent. She prefers the store’s new owners to keep her basic business model and formula intact.
“A lot of people want to support downtown and the local artists and buy local people’s stuff at a local store,” Van Frankenhuyzen said. “We really want to keep it the way it is.”
Customers have been supportive and understanding, but still disappointed after learning of Van Frankenhuzen’s imminent departure and the eventual sale of the store.
“Reaction’s been bittersweet. They’re happy for us, but they’re really sad to see us go,” she said. “I hate the idea of selling, but it’s a lot of work to run something remotely,” she said. “We’ve done it a couple times while visiting family overseas, but it’s very intensive, even when you trust your staff completely.”