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Posted: Jul 22, 2009  11:27

Everything "Under the Sun" and More


The Ladies From Under The Sun, From Left: Shelly, Kynsie, Kendall And Kaylan.

Retaining much of the character of the original Lindsey Helmer Hardware Store complete with the skylight cleaned so that sunshine streams onto the worn wooden floors that bounce and creak as they are walked upon, Under the Sun has brought a little bit of quirky Parisian chic to Boundary County.

"The main objective when we first started this business three and a half years ago was to bring people together and have fun," said Shelly Yount, owner. "We wanted to create a place where people could visit in a relaxed atmosphere, drink a cup of tea or a glass of wine and just hang out together. I really wanted to keep my daughters in town and give them a job when they didn't want to move or go to college."

Shelly, along with daughters Kynsie, Kendall, Kaylan and granddaughter Quinn, have created a unique and fun atmosphere that draws locals and tourists alike to wander the aisles perusing the many distinctive items that comprise the huge inventory of Under the Sun. Walls lined with crockery, glassware, linens and kitchen gadgets sit side by side with sprigs of bamboo, candles, wedding gifts, greeting cards, fun gifts for kids, cosmetics and skin care items. Unique jewelry and garden ornaments are artfully arrayed near organic and gourmet food, including chocolate that is "to die for." A large assortment of items carrying Anne Taintor's distinctive brand of humor draws smiles from customers. Jeans, hats, sunglasses, sassy T-shirts and bags have a home near the stairway lined with clocks leading to the upper loft area that houses children's items.

"As far as the slower economy, our numbers are down, but they're doable. They're keeping me going. You won't hear me complaining. I'm a firm believer that we all need to do our part and hang in there. I like to be humble about the small part my business plays in the overall economy of our county," Shelly stated firmly.

Energizing music flowing through the store spills out over the sidewalk. The sidewalk itself functions as a welcoming extension of the store as lively outdoor displays are frequently changed according to season and holidays. The handwritten sign on a chalkboard says, "Come on in! We'll feed you!"

"We really created this hip, younger vibe for my daughters as we tried to find and fit into a niche in the retail market," Shelly continued. "The store went towards a European/Parisian atmosphere almost on its own, and we found out that it's what people want. Under the Sun has brought a new vibe to Bonners Ferry; it's the sort of store that Bonners has never had before. We have geared our merchandise for the people here. We keep our prices competitive, even if that means we have a smaller profit margin. I just want to pay my daughters a living wage and keep this business afloat."

The new lunch items have added another touch of the Paris sidewalk café element to Under the Sun.

"I love to cook, and adding a full lunch menu to the Bistro was my leap of faith in the economy," Shelly said. "From 11am to 3pm we serve homemade organic soups, sandwiches and wraps as well as fresh, organic salads here in the Bistro or as to-go items. We have a variety of gelato and sorbetto as well as a case full of ice-cold organic teas, energy drinks, sodas, spritzers, organic milk, chocolate milk and soymilk as well as yogurt drinks for kids. We want to be accommodating. You do anything to get business these days, so I've spent a lot of time doing extra baking and pastries. We also have organic produce and, of course, Red Rooster Coffee as well as a selection of wine. I try to buy as much produce locally as I can. A couple of farmers deliver directly to me and when someone has an excess crop, they come to me and I try to accommodate them."

Shelly applauds the efforts of local organizations that are working to bring business to the downtown retail district, like Friends of Downtown and the Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce.

"The community events that are held downtown are huge for us," she emphasized. "They bring in a lot of customers from around the county and we really appreciate the business. The bulk of our business is people from all over the region: Bonners Ferry as well as Sandpoint and Creston. If we didn't do well in the off-season, we wouldn't be here. I don't bank on the tourists and I definitely don't have tourist prices. We love to see our regulars and we even make them their favorite soup."

Shelly and "her girls" have a very optimistic outlook toward the economy and the future of Boundary County.

"People need to remember that showing support for a business can be as simple as buying a cup of coffee or a lunch," she emphasized. "When you're from Bonners Ferry like I am, you just hate having people go to Sandpoint to get that one special item. We feel that Under the Sun is a nice complement to The Gallery next door. I'd like to urge people to come into town and at least check us out before you go out of town to shop. Our town is thriving, but it just needs people to believe in it. They need to believe in it as much as we who own businesses here do. We believe things are going to get better. I love running this business in my old home town.

You can travel anywhere and take a trip for a weekend or a week, but nothing feels like Bonners."


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