Sometimes, life works in mysterious ways.
Or at least that's the case for Rachel Marie Sanchez and Justin Sokol, owners of Marie Gregory, a boutique in the Historic McKinney Square providing a unique fashion styling experience.
Not too long ago, both were complete strangers who, coincidentally, shared a dream of opening a boutique, and, while both had two completely different life paths, life would bring them together to turn their dream into reality.
One day, during one of his visits, his best friend, who had moved from Arlington to Cedar Hill, told him that his new next door neighbor happened to be hiring at a Dallas boutique he owned. Encouraged by his best friend, Justin decided to go in for an interview and got hired on the spot due to his magnetic energy.
Justin, who still lived in California and had recently ended a long term relationship, accepted the job and decided to make Texas his new home. However, it wasn't an easy transition for him, as nine months later his dad passed away. Justin traveled back to Illinois and made the choice to stay there to help take care of his grandfather. For a year, he worked as a bartender and barista, while caring for his grandfather along with three other girls. A year later, Justin moved back to Texas to pick up where he had left off.
Rachel is a Texas-native who was born in Allen and grew up in the McKinney area, a place that she describes as close to her heart.
Her parents owned a commercial cleaning business that started in McKinney in 1976. Rachel grew up in the business and ended up taking over after her parents left.
In addition to running her commercial cleaning company, Rachel is also a wife and mother. She had always wanted to own a store, however, having retail businesses as her main cleaning clients, she knew how demanding it could get, knowing she'd probably spend weekends and holidays away from her family, and not being sure how she would handle everything, she held off on her dream for several years.
How did they get here?
Rachel met Justin at the Dallas boutique where he initially got hired at.
"I really enjoyed the interaction that we had and what a fun shopping experience I would have when I was in the store with him," Rachel told Check Out DFW.
After Justin moved back from Illinois, Rachel visited him along with her girlfriends to shop and catch up.
"Somehow we started talking about this dream of opening a boutique," Rachel said about her re-encounter with Justin. "I had said 'You know?, I know exactly where I want this boutique to be, I want it to be in McKinney'."
Justin had heard of McKinney but had never been there, therefore, they made plans to soon go check out to the McKinney Square so he could experience it for himself, and so they did.
Rachel offered Justin to partner up, however, he declined.
"Everybody thinks I'm so outgoing, which I get it," Justin explained to Check Out DFW. "But one thing is that on the other side of it, I get a little scared of life, so I did say 'no' at first, but not 'no because I didn't want to do it', I did have a dream I would love to open up my own boutique, what I'm finding out now is my favorite thing to do is to actually be a buyer. I love picking things out and collaborating things. So I said no, but it was more like I had loyalty to my old bosses and my partner kept saying 'I don't know why you're saying no, it's an opportunity of a lifetime, you would be really good at it, you're always doing everything for everyone else but not for yourself'."
After pondering on it for a few weeks, Justin decided to invite Rachel out for drinks and after a few too many, he decided to accept her offer.
"I think I was a little drunk that night," Justin explained and laughed. "And then a pun to that is that I'm sober now, six months sober."
"Our stories are like super different because I have been around the area for such a long time," Rachel added.. "That was one of the things I remember Justin and I talking about, I was like 'Are you sure you want to be here?'"
The answer was yes. Rachel and Justin celebrated their boutique's grand opening a few months later in October 2021.
Why the name Marie Gregory
Marie Gregory honors two special influences in their lives, for Rachel, it's her mother Marie, and for Justin, his late father Gregory.
Rachel shared that her mom was the first to hear of her plans of opening a boutique and was extremely supportive of her decision. Marie was sure that her daughter would figure out a way to make it happen.
"She's always been one that she believes I can," Rachel expressed. "She's always been someone who encourages me to stretch myself and like 'hey if you're uncomfortable that's probably good, continue to make yourself uncomfortable cause that's where growth really happens'."
For Justin, naming the boutique after his father, who took his own life, was a special way to memorialize him.
"My dad, one thing he could be was he was kind to everybody." Justin expressed and added that during the week of his father's funeral, he and his family listened to a U2 song that reminded them of his kindness.
"There's a part that says 'Are you tough enough to be kind? Because being kind is the thing that's hard to be'."That same quote was placed in the gym his father used to go in his honor.
"It feels good to have something named after my dad," Justin said. "Because when someone commits suicide, none of us got to say goodbye to him, we didn't get to sit in a room and we didn't get to say 'we're sorry or we're here with you', and then you have all these questions. So it's like to memorialize somebody in a different way than just a gravestone."
What makes their boutique unique
"Do you ever go into a store and people are on their phones or nobody helps you, or they're helping somebody else and they never come back to you and then you just shop by yourself?" Justin asked. "That's not what we do."
Rachel added that there's also a thing Justin does that she thinks no one else is doing in their area. "We have clients that they’re looking for a certain thing and they will come to the store and he will go and, maybe hopefully, find an item in our store, and then go pair that and go walk the square and take them into other stores in our square and pair things together to make an outfit, and just really like supporting the other stores in our community as well," She said. "I love that he offers that to clients so they don't feel like ‘Oh my God, I have to get everything at Marie Gregory's’."
What customers can find at Marie Gregory's
"Justin knows all the stores in the square and understands what the other stores have for product offerings and us not carrying that," Rachel said. "We want to make sure when you come into our store you have not gone around the corner and seen the same thing, so to us, that’s what’s part of what is so special about a boutique, you should be finding very unique items at a boutique, not something that everybody has."
Their products include men's and women's apparel, jewelry, handbags, homegoods, artwork, and more, with some of their items being custom-made and produced locally to support small businesses.
"Not only do we offer products but we also offer services," Rachel added. "Justin is a stylist, so he does styling services. He will do in-home styling, virtual-styling, in-our-boutique styling and so that's something that's really unique, especially where we're at, there's nobody else that's doing that."
Some of those services also include closet editing, which Justin says involves helping people mix and match stuff they probably haven't worn in 10 years because they don't know how to style it.
Their future plans for the boutique and the community
"On June 11 we're going to be spearheading the first fashion show in McKinney," Rachel shared. "We are getting about 12 to 15 other stores in McKinney to participate and the cool thing about it is a portion of the ticket sales is going to go towards a local nonprofit. It’s going to be for a really great cause. We want to be showcasing the fashion that McKinney has to offer along with all the great places there are to shop."
Rachel and Justin hope to have quarterly fashion shows, with the most significant falling during Fashion Month in September.