Vankleek Hill’s Main Street greeted a new storefront last week, as Bella Accessories opened its doors to shoppers.

The new business – which officially opened its retail space on September 16 at 80 Main Street East – is owned by Josee Tom. The local entrepreneur has offered the Bella line of women’s and travel accessories as a wholesaler for more than 15 years, originally through her wholesale business Pottery Lane Imports, which closed in 2015.

“Bella became my brand and I built it for many years,” says Tom, who has focused in the past few years on travel, education and writing – publishing two books ‘The Running Girl’ and the recently released ‘Meraki’. She has also focused on continuing her education, studying at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Business.

Over the past six years, Tom has continued in wholesale on a smaller scale, while also traveling regularly to Asia to visit suppliers. While in Asia, she lectured on international business strategies at Thammasat University in Thailand.

After spending the last several years traveling the world and working her own self growth, Tom said she was ready to settle down back in her hometown. She will however continue to travel, as well as wholesale.

A licensed travel agent/tour operator, Tom’s new business will also have a travel component and will offer wellness travel packages to locations all over the world.

“With my travel licence, I’m marrying both,” Tom explained. “Let’s go to Thailand. You don’t know what to pack? Well you need a shawl, you need this.”

Bella’s line of accessories will be updated for each season, and will keep up with current fashion trends. Tom intends to expand her lines, but does not want to reveal her future plans until they are finalized.

One thing important to the local entrepreneur is to work with other businesses on Vankleek Hill’s Main Street and throughout the area. Tom said a thriving business community is key to attracting shoppers to the village.

“We all have to work together,” said Tom, who has already visited other retailers in the community to discuss each others’ offerings and how they can work together. “The more variety the better.”

“When someone comes to town and they can’t have lunch here, or there’s nothing to make them stay, it’s a whole other ball game to get them here for just your business. It’s a matter of building this community so that (we have enough to offer to) the shoppers who are coming here and want to shop local.”