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From Bibles to boutique

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

While managing her church’s bookstore, selling Bibles, Christian books and greeting cards, Marsha Guy discovered an empty space in the back of the store, and her imagination took off. Always having a heart for fashion and looking her best, Guy began carrying a few outfits for women. It was a hit almost immediately.

“It just went off so well,” she said. “The people started coming in for the women’s clothes instead of the Bibles.”

As her little store grew, she moved it into a big sunroom in her home, but that wasn’t the end. In July, she opened Steppin in Style, a full brick-and-mortar boutique at 2131 South Dupont Highway, across from Brecknock Park.

“When I was doing it at home, I didn’t enjoy it the way that I’m enjoying it here. I’m more free here, I’m more flexible,” she said. “My customers can come into a relaxed atmosphere.”

The boutique has everything from special event attire to business attire and everyday wear, including shoes and handbags. Guy orders the clothing mostly from California and Texas.

While the store offers all sizes, it specializes in clothing for plus-sized women. Guy said that is needed in Dover.

“Some people, they have to go to Philadelphia or New York or some place like that because they can’t find anything here in Dover,” she said. “It’s almost making you feel like, ‘they don’t have anything for me here.’ So, my store will cater to them. It will make them feel like, ‘yeah, you do have some place to go.’”

Guy said she wants her boutique to celebrate plus-size women, an idea she included in her slogan: “The place where beauty and fashion meet.”

“Every woman is beautiful no matter what size they are, but the plus-size ladies don’t seem to really get that recognition,” she said. “Plus-size women are voluptuous, they’re beautiful women. That’s why I say they bring the beauty when they come in the door. They have the beauty, [and] I have the fashion for them.”

When Guy orders the clothing, she can order more plus-sized options for her customers.

This fills a gap left by big retailers, which she said typically order items in bulk and stock their shelves with only a few larger sizes.

For example, many women struggled to find a size 10 shoe, Guy said. “I go for the larger sizes. If they don’t have that, I move on.” If a customer comes in wanting a size she doesn’t have, she will order it.

Steppin in Style is all about making customers feel cared for and special. Guy offers private shopping sessions for small groups of friends, and she said a lot of customers appreciate the personal service.

In the new year, she hopes to expand into a back room and add more dressing rooms. She is planning to apply to the state EDGE grant program for growing small businesses.

Scholarship

Before opening the doors to women and their families, Guy had a deep connection with the community. She first moved to Smyrna when she was six years old and spent much of her life in the Dover area.

After her mother died in 2015, Guy started the Alice W. Daily Scholarship foundation in her mother’s honor. She remembers her mother saying, “If you don’t get anything else, get your education.” Her mother grew up in a time when education wasn’t guaranteed for African American children, and Guy said this lesson endured through generations.

“That’s something that stuck with me,” Guy said. “She was the same with our children, and I’m like that with my grandchildren.”

Since 2016, the foundation has given out four scholarships. It is open to any high school graduate in the state who is pursuing higher education at a college, university or trade school. Since faith was important to Guy’s mother, church activity is highly encouraged among applicants.

Anyone interested in the scholarship can contact Guy at 302-674-3708. She hopes the store will open more opportunities.

“Hopefully with Steppin in Style, now I’ll be able to go even bigger, as far as the scholarships are concerned,” she said.