Online Entrepreneurs Go Brick & Mortar in New Milford

NEW MILFORD – FernEllie.com, an online shopping destination for everything personalized, has opened a new boutique shop in the historic district, across from the town green.

FernEllie Creations, at 5 Church St., is nestled on the side of the three-story Village Center for the Arts building, an 1800s brick and wood structure that was also once a church and hardware store.

IMG_9903 ASFernando and Ellie Martins, husband and wife co-owners, offer a selection of personalized gifts and they’ll embroider anything they sell, right on the spot, at no additional cost.

The couple, who moved to New Milford from Orlando, Fla., in May, first discovered the town while visiting friends in Danbury earlier in the year.

“We instantly fell in love with the town’s charm and character and so did our three children,” said Fernando Martins.

“Since our business is online, we can live anywhere. Everything just fell into place for us. Shortly after we found a place to live, my wife drove by the available space and thought it would be perfect for the boutique. The building has a history and the location is great,” said Fernando Martins.

Once the 3-year lease was signed, they began renovating the interior of their 500-square-foot boutique and installed new wood floors and modern shelving. Just a month and a half later, the doors opened for business.

Shirley Wagenseil, who has owned the building with her late husband since 1959, said, “the store looks really good, and it’s very appealing. I hope they do very well here.”

Just in time for the holiday season, FernEllie Creations is introducing many of their online best-sellers to the local community.

“Our Christmas stockings sell like crazy for $19 each. We already sold over 300 and the season didn’t officially begin yet,” said FernanIMG_9887 ASdo Martins.

For cold weather days, they offer plenty of scarves to choose from – infinite scarves, prints, solids and plaids – all in the $20 range.

“The waffle makeup bags and robes and travel weekender bags and totes are classics that sell year-round,” he said.

“Children always gravitate to the stuffed animals that can be personalized with anything on them, like names and favorite expressions,” Ellie Martins added.

On display are many of the children’s classics, like the brightly colored and patterned backpacks, lunch boxes and insulated coolers in the $20 range. The matching rain boots, coats, and umbrellas can be purchased separately or together for $85 per set. And, the colorful hair bows for girls are quite popular.

The owners also have a custom embroidery side of the business that’s doing well. “We can embroider company logos on business apparel and uniforms and we sell a large variety of promotional items just for businesses,” said Fernando Martins. In the near future, they would like to open a second New Milford location that caters to the small business community, which will serve as both a meeting place and a showroom for clients.

For now, their new retail space also doubles as office space. Fernando Martins said they live only two minutes from home. He works full-time running the business and processing the online orders while the storefront is open. Ellie Martins, who has always worked in sales and is employed full-time at a local bank, helps to manage their store whenever she can.

FernEllie Creations isn’t the first retail space the couple has owned together. Four years ago, they opened FernEllie in an indoor flea market in Auburndale, Fla.

IMG_9880 ASThe couple started out with $300 and made over $30,000 in their first year, they said. Initially, they only sold items for children, up to age seven. “At the time, I got the idea to buy an embroidery machine. We never took out a business loan and always paid for everything in full. After that, we bought a vinyl cutter, heat press and sublimation printer, too. We’re set up to personalize almost anything!” said Fernando Martins.

They expanded after a year and a half there to a mall in Orlando, but two years later the property was sold and they were told to move out.

“Everything happens for a reason and our online business that we started at the same time continues to grow,” they said.

The couple said they are living the American Dream. Twenty years ago, Fernando Martins came to the United States. At age 20, he owned a clothing factory in Brazil and sold his industrial machines to get here. “I could never have anything like this in Brazil and be safe as a store owner with all of the crime that happens there,” he said.

FernEllie’s store hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This feature and photos by Alicia Sakal originally appeared online and in the Business section of the November 8, 2017 edition of Republican-American, a regional daily newspaper in 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.

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