Jessica Bovee and her husband, Erik Clevenger moved back to Albuquerque last January after three years in Austin, Texas. Despite the flurry of relocation and the work that comes with settling into a new place, the two wasted no time in getting their next endeavor off the ground. Curio, a highly-curated boutique in the North Valley opened up its doors the first week of May. (Yes, that means it only took about five months for the duo to organize and open a store.) It helps that Bovee had been mentally preparing to run a store like this for about as long as she can remember. “I've wanted to do this forever. Always,” she said, standing in the center of the airy, attractive space she and her partner have created.
Bovee grew up in Albuquerque, but moved to LA after high school graduation to attend the Art Institute. She interned at Vogue while on the West Coast and soaked in the fashion scene, eventually moving to New York to continue honing her eye. “I realized … New York just wasn't for me,” she said of her later decision to leave the big city and begin work in retail. She had gained eight years of experience in that field before returning to Albuquerque to expand her expertise through curating and running her own shop.
Curio itself is awash in light. The peach walls of the small boutique are lined with angular, handmade shelves by the local artists and carpenters of Skeleton Key. Painted in white cursive across the north wall of the boutique are the words “hello there,” a fittingly warm welcome. Several racks of clothing are arranged on the opposite side of the space. Each item of clothing is carefully selected with special consideration for how it is made, not just how it looks. “Fast fashion is such a killer,” Bovee explained, “but it’s really hard to shop ethically on a budget. A big part of our ethics is carrying local or small businesses, and sustainable designs.” It just so happens that this honestly made garb looks good as well—shoppers can thank Bovee's astute fashion sense for that.
Today, Bovee is decked out in goods from her store—a sky blue jumper that is colored with plant-based dye, and a pair of large gold earrings whose smooth organic shapes hang down toward her chin. She is welcoming and sincere, and that is exactly how she aims to make Curio feel. “I don't want anyone to walk in here and feel uncomfortable,” she said. To that end, she tries to keep her price points as low as possible and offer up cool clothes for all body types; she plans to add even more to the plus-sized inventory of the store in the fall, as well. “I want this to be a very inclusive shopping experience. I don't want anyone to feel like they can't shop here. Everyone wants cute stuff!” Bovee herself appreciates and understands the importance of feeling good in what you put on your body.
“Personal style is so important. It's super fun, and it can make people feel so happy,” she underscored. “I think the way you dress is how you present yourself to the world. It visually speaks what you want to convey. I also think that, in a way, it can be armor. You feel powerful when you're in your favorite outfit. Especially under the current administration and with everything that is happening, I feel like it is important to have a safe space to express yourself, and I hope that I provide that here.” Yet, Bovee manages to take a longview on changing the world. “I think fashion is great and fun, but it doesn't always change someone's life,” she said. As such, Curio very much intends to invest back in the community.
“Albuquerque is so important to me. I love it here. I want to support it as much as I can,” she said. “That guides me as far as how I run the business.” One day, as Curio grows, Bovee hopes that they can donate a portion of all profits to local charities, but for starters, the store is holding a tampon drive—that is, through June and July, anyone who brings in a donation of feminine hygiene products will receive a 10 percent discount on any purchases. Everything collected will be donated to Barrett House at the end of the month.
In my opinion, that discount would be well-used to snatch up some of Curio's jewelry selection—the sort of amassment of designers, both local and from throughout the states, that you're unlikely to find in one place anywhere else in the city. Seaworthy Accessories from Portland, Lily Dawson Designs from Kansas City, Mo., and Sonámbulo, Chela Gurnee, and Genuine and Ginger from Albuquerque all grace the display case at Curio. The collection of jewelry is just one example that evidences the thoughtfulness with which Curio is curated.
But what's more, the space has a heart that extends beyond the clothes and the jewelry within the walls of the small shop (PS—there's also candles, soaps, accessories, essential oils, etc.). What really animates the space is the good vibes and positive energy that Bovee and company are intent on creating. With that, Curio draws in customers and keeps them by spreading the love locally.