By Jamie Lindsey
A new store is coming to Joplin and is set to open on December 12. Auntie Sal’s Emporium is, according to part-owner, Marissa Bonilla, “An eclectic catch-all with hair involved.”
Browsing through the pathways of Auntie Sal’s Emporium, you will find exactly that. An eclectic catch all of posters, crystals, jewelry, artwork, clothing and accessories, all with different themes like magic, marijuana, feminism, LGBTQ+, Pride, authenticity, etc. There is quite literally, something for everyone within the doors of Auntie Sal’s.
The hand-painted graffiti wall makes for a good backdrop for the mish-mash of items and artwork around the store, leading you from one stand to the next. Every little space in the shop is covered and exciting. Even though the shop is small, it could take you hours to look at everything.
Partners together in the business, Sally Stevens, Ka’Cheri Shellenbargar and Marissa Bonilla travel all around to find jewelry, pieces and artwork to bring back to the community of Joplin. “All of our trips have been fun. I love going to Arkansas,” Sally said. Ka’Cheri agrees, saying that “The trips to Arkansas are my favorite, I love just being able to go out there and look for crystals.” Crystals they bring back to the shop for everyone to enjoy.
Sally, whose main role in the business is financial backing and knowledge of business ownership, was tired of working for other people. “I didn’t want to work for anyone else anymore. I’ve been playing around with ideas and when Marissa and Ka’Cheri came around, we just started doing all kinds of different things for the shop.”
Marissa does a lot of the organizing and planning, Ka’Cheri brings in a lot of art and knowledge about art, while Sally has the financial backing and know-how about the business. Together, they make a team of kick-ass women who are dedicated to having a well-known, inclusive business in the four-state area.
“I hadn’t lived here for 25 years and I came back and had no community,” said Sally. “I made one through volunteering with Food Not Bombs. That’s what I wanted this store to be, is a community of people.” She continues, “A lot of times when you live around here, if you’re not married, you don’t have children and you don’t belong to a church, It’s really difficult to have a community. My community are my friends that are spread out all over the world.”
In the future, Sally has had many things on her mind about what to use the store for. “(In the future) I would like to see this run by a foundation and not an individual. Where it could turn into something that could be used as job training. I’d like to open an LGBTQ+ center, asking myself, ‘Can this extend into that?’ Helping the houseless, helping people in rehab.” The list went on. The community-driven hopes of Auntie Sal’s Emporium has inspired the three ladies to do what they can for the community, including having a section in the store where people can buy/donate to local organizations.
“We want to make this a place where everyone feels comfortable,” Marissa said.
That also includes dedicating a day during the week for people with sensitivity issues to be able to shop at Auntie Sal’s. On Tuesdays, shopping will be by appointment only, with lowered lighting and softer music for those that don’t want to or can’t be bombarded by crowds, lights or noises.
Being a woman-owned business leader, the ladies agree that it’s inspiring. Marissa adds, “I’m setting an example. My daughter sees me and sees what I’m doing. It’s important to show her that you can do whatever you want.”
Sally said, “The majority of businesses I’ve worked at have been female fronted. I’ve had some really powerful women that have helped mentor me.”
Sally will also be offering full salon services in the near-future. She will have full services available and also gender confirming services. “I want to be able to dedicate a full day to someone who is looking for gender confirming hairstyles and makeovers. Without any judgment.”
Teeth bling, wigs, crazy sunglasses, sequin dresses, posters, crystals, clothing, jewelry, pins and literally so much more, Auntie Sal’s Emporium has everything you want to buy yourself and all of your friends.
Their Grand Opening is set for December 12 from 11am-7pm, Santa will be there from 3-5pm. Go and see for yourself the eclectic catch-all with hair, that is Auntie Sal’s Emporium.
If you’re a local artist and would like to have your artwork in Auntie Sal’s Emporium, please contact the store!