When Maura Conine left Cincinnati for Chicago in 2015, she was going home. After six years living in the Queen City, where she met her husband Brandon (then a first-year resident at UC), got married, and started a family, she eventually moved back to the Windy City, where she grew up.
She also took the chance to start her own business, CAPSULE, a chic women’s boutique that would cap off Conine’s years of personal styling experience for high-end department store Nordstrom and allow her to carve out her own place in the fashion world.
CAPSULE’s lookbook tells a story of modern, mostly neutral pieces that customers can use to begin building their own capsule wardrobe (an industry term—currently trending among big-name brands like J.Crew—that essentially means “highly versatile mini wardrobe”). And therein lies CAPSULE’s brand identity: stylish but effortless, fresh but adaptable, fun but functional. “I was thinking about my vision, and I started looking into what a capsule wardrobe meant,” Conine says, “and without even knowing it, that’s how I was teaching my customers to buy and dress.” Conine found a lovely storefront and commenced building her brick-and-mortar brand in Chicago.
But 2019 changed everything: Brandon suddenly found himself without a job when his hospital, Metro South, closed down. That’s when the family made the difficult decision to leave Chicago. “Obviously, moving to a different state was a big bump in the road,” Conine says. “It was not expected. I just said, I’m closing it, I can’t deal. Then I started telling my best customers and they literally cried. It made me take a step back and take a breath and think about how to stay open,” she says.
Operating the boutique remotely from Cincinnati felt like a potential solution, so Conine made plans. “I decided to try to make it work long distance,” she says. “I had a great team of employees—a great stylist who I was going to promote to manager—so I just kind of took that and ran with it.”
As it happens, however, CAPSULE’s brand identity also includes Maura’s own identity and personality. So her attempt to run the shop from Cincinnati after the move just didn’t land. “It was pretty apparent pretty quickly that me being out of state running a business that was me wasn’t going to work,” Conine says. “Everything that’s in that store, I touch, from Instagram to promoting to personal shopping to the day-to-day grind. The store is me.”
Perhaps more importantly, Conine realized she needed that process as much as it needed her. “I opened a store, not to run it from afar,” she says. “I opened a store to be there every day and to mix with my customers and to learn about their lifestyles and to learn about what was going on with their families. I became friends with my customers.” Nevertheless, the “remote boutique” was a worthy experiment, as it showed a clearer way forward for Conine and her business. “I’m glad I did it,” she says. “It gave me the time to realize that I still wanted to do it. I still had the passion for it.”
Soon, it became clear that going back to Cincinnati would be its own kind of homecoming. Its new Mariemont Strand location, the former address of now-shuttered boutique Sara Benjamin’s, is steps from neighborhood flagships like Mariemont Theatre and a perfect tonal fit for the boutique. “When I decided I wanted to move it here, Mariemont was the No. 1 spot that I was looking at,” Conine says. “And the fact that a space opened up was like kismet. That I was able to acquire that space pushed me forward to jump off the cliff and just go for it.” Conine plans on hosting a soft opening for CAPSULE on Friday, May 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
CAPSULE, 6810 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, (773) 573-0612