The Annex has brought trendy big city fashions to small town Highland.
The boutique at 8808 Kennedy sells an array of chic men's and women's clothes, including dresses, leggings, sweaters, denim jackets, jeans, T-shirts, hoodies and shoes, as well as vinyl records. The "lifestyle and apparel destination" also stocks goods made by local designers and artisans, including wallets, purses, zines, soap and bath balls. It for for instance carries beans from the Highland micro roastery Smalltown Coffee Co.
"We have something different than what you'll find at other stores," owner Sarah Spezza said. "I don't feel like I'm competing with the big box stores since we've got people who miss a personal touch, or one-on-one. We've heard it's nice to be able to not have to drive into the city to get items like this."
Spezza has always been interested in fashion, and started selling clothes at local pop-up markets such as Hunt and Gather, the Fetching Market and Three Little Birds Market in Valparaiso. She rented space in Antiques on Main in Crown Point for about a year, and decided she wanted to have a brick-and-mortar store of her own.
The Hammond resident liked what was happening in downtown Highland.
"It's got a real good vibe," she said. "We're next to the Highland Board Shop, so we get a little bit of a younger crowd. Then the Promise You Art House opened down the street, and we're right around the corner from the Sip Coffee Shop."
The Annex's target market is women in their 30s, but it has something for people of all ages and genders, Spezza said.
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"You could get a T-shirt or a dress to wear to a wedding," she said. "You can find things here whether you're a grandma or a 16-year-old girl."
She tries to stock as much as possible from local craftspeople and artists. A popular seller is the Woodjacket Design T-shirts, "one-of-a-kind wearable pieces of artwork" designed by a local couple that are hand-numbered and often feature vintage illustrations.
The Annex also hosts monthly events in the evening, including a ladies night, a guy's night and a vinyl record night.
"We wanted to open a place where artists can come hang out and sell their goods," she said.
She said she might eventually consider opening a second location, possibly in downtown Hammond to help with the revitalization of that once-vibrant commercial district.