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Grace & Joy inspires with beautiful clothes and more

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 5, 2024 1:00 AM

The family was on a mission trip to help the blind in Vietnam when inspiration struck.

The beautiful clothes, the handcrafted jewelry and the warmth of the people they met during that 2012 trip made them want to share the beauty that surrounded them, Chloe Hubbard said.

"Inspired by the vivid colors and culture of Southeast Asia, with $1,000 and some airline points we bought handcrafted jewelry and scarves from the Thai markets," Hubbard said of the visit. "My mom brought these unique pieces  home and threw a party in her living room."

Every item brought home was sold and her mom used the money to return to Thailand to visit her sister, who was in the process of relocating to the country, said Hubbard, who recently took on the role at the clothing company's chief executive officer.

On that trip, she met a family of tailors and inspiration again struck, prompting the creation of Grace & Joy and its line of handcrafted clothing. A 700-square-foot store on First Avenue soon followed — a space that was quickly outgrown. 

The company now has a 5,000-square-foot flagship store and a growing online presence. The business offers small, batch-designed clothing made to order for the store, with colorful and bold designs and classic styles that are both beautiful and comfortable. It is, the family said, designed to bring both grace and joy to the wearer — hence the company's name. 

That belief was key to Grace & Joy when it was launched in 2012 — and is as true today with Hubbard taking over as CEO from her mother, Susan Wentz, known as Gigi to her friends and family and runs the growing business with her sister Lilly. 

Hubbard took over as CEO to allow her mom, Susan Wentz, to focus on her recovery after battling brain cancer, something that was discovered earlier this year. She'd become sick and, after weeks of being in and out of the hospital and a bunch of tests, Wentz was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a severe form of brain cancer. Initially given 30 days to live, she said that, while her mom has made a miraculous recovery, she still has a long road ahead.

The family is more determined than ever to push its business to the next level and has big goals to grow its YouTube channels, boost its website, and continue to design its clothing design.

"Our family business has been pushed to its limit since the pandemic and my mom's brain cancer diagnosis," Hubbard said.

When the store closed during the pandemic in March 2020, the website was hanging on by a thread, handwritten tags were used to track inventory. Its clothing — produced in Thailand and Vietnam — had been halted by the pandemic. The two sisters launched YouTube channels — "Chloe Simone Says" and "Lillys Life" — as a way to spread Grace & Joy, both the business and the philosophy behind them which prompted the business' name.

"We did not focus on selling per se but started telling family stories that were uplifting and relatable," Hubbard said. 

The YouTube channels have attracted a growing fan base and allow the family to share what is going on in their lives and the latest of what is happening at Grace & Joy.

"We have shared so many aspects of our family life that people all across the world feel like family," Hubbard said. "We have traveled all over Asia and Europe and shared our experience on our YouTube channels. We have shared the good and the bad — from buying for our business in Bangkok, shopping for fabric in Saigon, Vietnam, to being at our mom's bedside while she was dying of cancer."

Inspired by their mother, described by the pair as a serial entrepreneur and one of the hardest working people they know. Self-employed since she was 19, Wentz inspired her children to follow their dreams and not let anything stop them "even if it means breaking a few rules."

"If anyone has ever met my mom she is the most uplifting and cheerful person," Hubbard said. "She really was the CEO of all things joyful."

While she has some big shoes to fill in taking over as Grace & Joy's CEO, Hubbard said she is also filled with excitement about carrying on that legacy. 

"I cannot wait to get more involved with the Sandpoint community," she said. "My husband and I bought a house in town last year and my favorite thing to do is walk to the beach with my two kids."

Hubbard said they love to share the story about the business and the family. In fact, the sisters' YouTube channels are more an homage to the love and joy they find as a family with the occasional snippet of information about Grace & Joy, a link to clothing they might have on from the business, or a video of a shopping trip for fabric in Thailand or Italy.

"We love storytelling and everything in our business has a story behind it," Hubbard added.

Grace & Joy is located at 102 Cedar St., Sandpoint. It can be found online at shopgraceandjoy.com or on Facebook at ShopGraceAndJoy.