Tonya Antaki was 50 years old when a dream she’d had for at least two decades finally came true. The former emergency room nurse turned in her stethoscope and scrubs to open an inspirational boutique, one she hoped would bring great joy to her customers.
“I liked being a nurse but always wanted my own business,” she said. “My husband traveled around a lot, so we didn’t know where we would ever plant roots.”
But a year ago, the couple moved to Riverview, fell in love with the area and decided this was the place they wanted to raise their 7-year-old twins.
Now with the chance to bring her longstanding dream to fruition, Antaki grabbed it and opened Be Happy Boutique on Dec. 19.
“I wanted a place where everyone could come and be inspired, even if they were only browsing,” she said. “They could stop in, relax and have a cup of tea while getting to know me and the store.”
And that’s exactly the atmosphere she created.
When customers enter the store they can immediately sense the joy she put into merchandising every inch of the place. Collections of clothing and one-of-a-kind accessories, inspirational gift items and colorful florals abound. There’s even a sitting area where customers can sip their tea.
“As I was doing this, I basically set it up by how it made me feel,” Antaki said. “The inspiration came from how I wanted the customer to feel. I wanted them to say, ‘Wow!’”
Thus far, that’s the kind of reaction she’s been getting.
“I was thrilled when she opened,” said Rene Butz of Apollo Beach. “She did a fabulous job of designing the store and filling it with unique merchandise.
“It’s such a fun place and truly a hidden gem in this area,” Butz continued. “Tonya is so sweet and helpful, which I find rare in retail these days. I’ve told all my friends and neighbors. I’m very impressed.”
Dana Dittmar, of Kings Point, recently visited for the first time with a group of her close friends.
“She has a refreshing collection of clothing, home décor and inspirational gifts,” Dittmar said. “Between its wood floors, bark accents and her incredible merchandising, the shop is special in every way. The name absolutely fits the place.”
Be Happy Boutique carries custom lines of affordable clothing from Tango Mango, Sacred Threads, Face Plant, Tribal and more in sizes XS to 2X, depending on the vendor. Antaki orders small quantities to keep the inventory fresh. Gift items and specialty merchandise include Dansko shoes and clogs for nurses; inspirational books; Beleave and Tea Forte loose leaf teas; scarves, wallets and purses; Leena’s Chocolates; Brighton, Luca & Danni and Silver Forest jewelry; candles; Willow Tree collectibles; memory boxes; and more.
“There’s something here for any woman for any occasion,” Antaki said. “And men can find gifts for the special women in their lives.”
Antaki looks for socially conscious suppliers like Novica – an organization that works with National Geographic to help artisans from around the world sell their merchandise – and Free Reign Farm, a new company that gives part of its proceeds to support children in foster homes.
“Customers can feel good about buying our merchandise because they know they’re helping some very worthwhile causes,” Antaki said.
Be Happy Boutique is at 11369 Big Bend Road in the Summerfield Shoppes, Riverview. The store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.