Help Mary Touissant keep her beloved boutique open

Since November 2013, Minouchic Boutique has been the pride of the Fifth Ward.  However, like so many small businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic devastated our business and our family as well.

Over the past 18 months we've had to reduce our hours and temporarily close on two occasions. Recently, we reopened the shop without any government assistance,  and we would so appreciate your help to keep us open.  

We started this GoFundMe in the summer before my family was hit with Covid-19 and unfortunately, due to a set-up error, the $3,500 we raised toward our goal was returned to our donors. We'd love to recoup those donations and meet our goal, which is why we're rebooting the campaign today.

Please read our story below.

We are grateful for all your support generosity.


Mary Toussaint

                                                                  Sisters Mary and Lynn Toussaint

Help Mai and Lynn Toussaint keep their beloved shop Minouchic Boutique open.

“Minouchic Boutique is possibly the best shop you may have missed in Evanston,” says Ande Breunig, publisher of the new magazine Our Evanston, who only recently discovered the shop at 1900 Asbury herself. Given that her magazine focuses on all of Evanston’s small, independent shops, salons, and studios--she should know. 

“Its unassuming storefront belies the treasure trove of goodies inside,” Ande says.

It’s true.

Mary Toussaint, who opened her store on Black Friday eight years ago, offers a dazzling array of designer consignment clothes, new clothes, vintage and new purses, jewelry, sunglasses, colorful African clothing, and even beautiful paintings by Haitian artist Herold Alveres, who--because he was born armless--paints with his mouth and feet.  

“Mary has been a fashionista since her teen years, so I trust her advice,” says Lisa Laude, host of Lift Up Your Life Radio and whose family has been friends with the Toussaint family for 30 years. “She’s also so warm and friendly, you always have a great conversation when you stop by.”

And it’s not just shoppers who revel in Mary's authenticity. She’s also incredibly generous to members of the community in times of need. 

She’s clothed grieving families when a loved one has died and they don’t have funds to pay funeral expenses. She donated bags of clothes to the college students of Evanston Fight for Black Lives group one summer so they could resell them to raise funds for their projects. 

Every year, she agrees to take on the harder-to-place teens who look for summer jobs through the Mayor’s Youth Summer Employment Program. “They always come to me with the difficult ones because they know I’ll pay attention to them and train them. And I like doing it.”

Sometimes a hungry passerby will come in looking for money for food. “I just give them my lunch,” says Mary matter-of-factly.

Mary says she’s loved fashion all her life. After graduating from ETHS, she attended Ray Vogue College of Design and Harrington Institute of Interior Design, and she rattles off the many clothing stores she’s worked for as a buyer and on the floor -- Merchandise Mart, Bloomingdales, Marshall Field’s, The Dress Barn, and many more. 

“You name it, I’ve worked it,” she says. “But I just decided it was about time to be my own boss,”  

While Mary's the fashion maven, her sister Lynn, who by day is a Cook County public defender, manages the store’s operations. The two worked relentlessly to make their dream a reality.

“I love the store, I love the owner, I love the family,” says Robin Rue Simmons, whose office is right next door. 

“As an environmentalist, I love resale, I love small businesses, I love Black businesses, I love women in business, it’s a neighborhood place, and Mary and Lynn are Haitian leaders in our community. And then--well, I just love fashion.”

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the Toussaint family hard. It wreaked havoc on the shop from the start in March 2020 when the world shut down and sales dwindled to almost nothing. The sisters didn’t receive any governmental assistance, Mary had to cut down the store’s hours, bills piled up, and just paying the rent became a challenge. As summer neared and the vaccine became available, Mary was optimistic that sales would pick up.

But tragedy struck this past July when Mary, her 94-year-old mom, and her sister Nancy, 64 -- who have lived together for years -- all got Covid-19. 

The store shuttered.

Though Mary's Covid symptoms were severe, she took great care of Nancy, who had diabetes and suffered from mental health issues, and of her elderly mom. Despite all Mary's efforts, the family lost their beloved Nancy to Covid-19 on July 31.

Still mourning but getting stronger, Mary and Lynn have reopened the store and have begun to organize a variety of shopping events. Rachel Hershinow, owner of Stella Boutique on Central Street attended a recent one.

“I was so happy to finally stop into this store,” she says. “It was chock full of goodies! Men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, art. I always love a good treasure hunt, and Mary warmth and passion for her store were displayed throughout.”

But shopping events alone won’t recoup all the store’s losses. Mary and Lynn need to build the business back better. 

They have rent and bills to pay. 

They’d love a new awning for more visibility and curb appeal. 

They’re looking to improve their website and increase traffic for online sales.

And they’re hoping the community will step up during this time to help them reach their $20,000 goal.

Mary says the strength of Evanston is in its people.

“The community has always been helpful,” she says. “Evanstonians go out of their way to help those in need. You always find a helping hand.”

Lisa Laude hopes that proves to be true for this family.

“The Toussaints are a beacon of light in our community,” she says. “I hope the community will help take care of them.”

Watch an interview with Mary here .

--Nina Kavin

Donations (43)

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  • Kelsey McGrath
    • $10 
    • 1 yr
    • $10 
    • 1 yr
  • Karen Bireta
    • $50 
    • 2 yrs
  • Tom Mulhern
    • $250 
    • 2 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 2 yrs
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Mary Toussaint
Evanston, IL

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