Ana Blair’s to hold Grand Opening to celebrate new ownership


New owner, Ashley Dayton, behind the counter fixing a cup of gourmet coffee. Tina L. Scott photo.

Ana Blair’s Boutique, 820 E. First St. in Merrill, will hold their Grand Opening on Thursday, May 18, 2023, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. to celebrate new ownership.
Ashley Dayton, the clothing boutique’s new owner, purchased the business from founder Vanessa Lazarz on February 1, 2023.
The Grand Opening will feature sweet treats from Auntie Ray’s Coffee House, food from Sutton’s Wine Bar, coffee specials in the new coffee truck, and a pop-up shop featuring Rustic Earth Metals permanent jewelry of Weston on-site (limited availability at this point).
Lazarz originally opened the store in her home in September 2016, then moved into a small E. Main St. retail location in February 2017, and in 2019, moved the business to its current location where she carried boutique clothing and a full espresso bar.
Dayton plans to continue all the wonderful things she fell in love with at Ana Blair’s Boutique while also adding a few of her own touches.
The downtown boutique will continue to carry new women’s clothing in sizes XS to 3X, and that will continue to be the mainstay of the business, and the full espresso bar will also remain a feature, offering gourmet coffee.
Dayton has also introduced something she calls “Second Love.”
“We have a small room devoted to gently used boutique items that can be brought into the store in exchange for an in-store gift certificate,” Dayton said. Items cannot be big-store brand names but must have been originally purchased in a small boutique store. Her goal is to help her consumers while also supporting other small boutique clothing stores like Ana Blair’s.
The inspiration for this came from her own closet, she said. She realized she had lots of beautiful boutique clothing she wasn’t wearing anymore, so it seemed a perfect fit and she knew, if she had this situation, she couldn’t be alone. She was right. “That has been going very well since it started,” she said.
In addition, Dayton has begun to order some additional home decor, and items suitable for gift giving to add to the boutique’s offerings. She is “starting to add more home goods, and I brought back purses and perfume (Vanessa had it in the past but hadn’t had them in a while).”
“Things have been going very well and the feedback has been positive so far!” Dayton said.

Tina L. Scott photo.

Lazarz wasn’t planning to sell
Lazarz wasn’t actually planning to sell Ana Blair’s and didn’t have it up for sale, both women said.
“Vanessa wasn’t selling Ana Blair’s,” Dayton said, laughing. “I had always dreamed of owning my own boutique or event planning business and this was my favorite place to shop and for coffee in Merrill!”
So when “I found out I was losing my job due to closure and that my last day at my job would be two weeks before my son would be born … I approached Vanessa, who had become a very good friend, about selling the boutique to me,” she said. “At first, she was not interested in selling, but I kept on asking her, and over a few months, we were discussing the possibilities.”
“It was really a conversation amongst friends that grew into fruition,” Lazarz said. “I was growing busier in my other roles … I own Sutton’s Wine Bar and Tranquil Times Wellness.” [She also owns Vanessa M. Lazarz Ads Management Co.]
In addition, Lazarz is married with five children and her family keeps her really busy. “When we’re not working, I love being outdoors and spending time up north and on the water,” she said. “Although I’m heavily involved in business, outside of work I really prefer to disconnect and keep pretty private.”
“Once Vanessa eventually came around to the idea and seemed like she would possibly consider selling,” Dayton said. “I presented the idea to my husband who is already a business owner in town. I gave him a full business plan, and he seemed unsure at first but eventually came around after seeing my business plan, a lot of back and forth, and a whole lot of passion on my part!”
Having named the business after her daughters, for Lazarz it was extremely important that if she sold the business, it was going to the right person. “I knew Ashley would be the perfect fit,” Lazarz said.
The women settled on the specifics and Ashley Dayton purchased the business with the help of her husband, Eric. “I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and driven husband who helped make my hopes and dream become a reality, and I could have never done this without his love and strong support along with his entrepreneurial knowledge!” she said.
“I’ve always dreamed of owning a small town store,” Dayton said, ever since she was shopping at her favorite boutique in her hometown of Waupaca. And this business was a perfect fit.
“I have a love for clothes and shoes and purses as well as my favorite thing … coffee!” she said. “I think Merrill is a great small town and has a lot of people passionate about all things local … I think we have great people and very few places to shop, network, and get good small batch coffee! I like that there are not a ton of boutiques and that there is a mix of great small businesses.”

Boutique clothing, jewelry, and shoes. A store display highlights some of the great finds for summer. Tina L. Scott photo.

Family and women focused
Like Lazarz, Dayton is also very family and women focused. Dayton will work full-time at the boutique, along with five part-time girls that help out as needed. The five are all original Ana Blair’s staff, one of whom is Dayton’s daughter who has worked at the store for nearly two years.
Visitors and shoppers will also get to meet Dayton’s newest addition to the family when they stop in. “I am here 90% of the time and … I bring my baby, Crue, with me every day,” she said.
Dayton said she is proud to continue the tradition of Ana Blair’s being a woman-operated business and “My hope is to have something for everyone” and for her business to be one of the first places the women of Merrill think of to come and shop. She said she hopes Ana Blair’s will be an “all around asset to the community.”
While this is the first business she has ever owned, the last six years spent working as a nurse administrator at a long-term care facility has given her experience managing someone else’s business, and that, along with her husband’s entrepreneurial guidance, will go a long way. She also has very supportive parents and a very supportive mother-in-law, she said.
Dayton moved to Merrill three-and-a-half years ago, married her husband, Eric, in 2021, and together their family consists of her two teenagers, Alayna and Kullin, along with new baby, Crue, and two dogs. “I have found my heart here in Merrill!” she said.
“I am so looking forward to getting to know more people in our community and am always open to suggestions and other people’s visions!” Dayton said.
“I hope to bring back the weekly live-stream shopping and to have a yearly fall or spring fashion show. This year I plan on having a fall fashion show with a special theme.”
She also anticipates working with other budding entrepreneurs to possibly host pop-up shops in her space and likely having Rustic Earth Metals permanent jewelry back during the summer for pop-ups to help other business women and bring new things to Merrill’s women shoppers.
“I genuinely love meeting new people and seeing what people want/like and need for me to carry in the store,” Dayton said. “Shopping here is truly appreciated and not taken for granted!”
“I really love watching Ashley implement her own style into the boutique,” Lazarz said. “She really is doing amazing and I couldn’t imagine anyone else taking over my first business love.”
“I’m so appreciative for the support of the community for the last seven years!” she added, piggy-backing on Dayton’s comment about appreciating the boutique’s customers.

The front windows of Ana Blair’s showcase some of their boutique clothing but will play host to a pop-up permanent jewelry business during their Grand Opening on Thursday. Tina L. Scott photo.

Dreaming even bigger dreams
With any luck, this is just the beginning for Dayton, as it was for Lazarz.
In addition to the downtown physical shopping location, Dayton also operates Ana Blair’s Boutique online, with different and expanded inventory, at:
And long term Dayton has some other dreams she’s setting her sights on. “My goal is to move to a new building, and to grow my customers to offer more for all ages,” she said. “Ideally I would love a second store in another location, as well. I want to be a place that people are excited to visit and where I can have ongoing relationships and continue meeting new people.”
“I would love a podcast, and my biggest dream is to write a book,” Dayton said. “This may be just a dream, but it’s a big one!”
Those dreams might sound big, but Dayton has already achieved two of her big dreams with the purchase of Ana Blair’s and, soon-to-be-introduced at her Grand Opening event, her Ana Blair’s Coffee On The Go coffee truck.
Her coffee truck will make its next appearance at the Lincoln County Rodeo in June when it will be on location from very early until very late to accommodate everyone working the event as well as attendees, she said.
Merrill residents are likely to see the Coffee On The Go truck at the Lincoln County 4-H Fair and many other local events throughout the year, as well.
“I just feel like if you can share your love, passion, and visions with others while making a living, then you’ll end up pretty darn happy!” Dayton said. And that’s exactly what she intends to do.

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