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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 9, 201908:48 PM EST

Artsy Abode closing at St. Johns Town Center

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The owner says online shopping and rental rates led to shutting the store, one of the original tenants.

By Emily Bloch, Contributing Writer

Artsy Abode, a boutique gift shop chain that sells jewelry, accessories and home decor, will close its flagship St. Johns Town Center location.

Staff is telling customers that the store will close when its lease expires in June.

Co-owner and founder Leah Lytle attributes the closing to the popularity and convenience of online shopping as well as the cost to rent space at Town Center.

“Our goal is to have things that people really wanted and brands people loved. For example, we were the only ones in the area for years that sold Vera Bradley items,” Lytle said.

“The strategy lately is for those brands to open their own stores or numerous outlets. When Vera Bradley expanded online and to large shopping centers, when things like that happen, it eats away at your profitability, she said.

The St. Johns location, at 4764 River City Drive, No. 107, opened in the first phase of St. Johns Town Center in 2005 and is one of a few locally owned tenants within the shopping center.

State corporate records show a corporate mailing address in Middleburg for store owners Leah and Rob Lytle.

The shop, which has garnered more than 13,000 likes on Facebook, is one of more than 11 Artsy Abode locations throughout Florida.

“We were one of the first ones, but with rent costs as well as Amazon and our vendors opening their own stores, it’s become really difficult to compete,” Lytle said.

Artsy Abode opened in the first phase of St. Johns Town Center in 2005.

“The biggest thing has been Amazon. We just kept seeing the real reduction in traffic. We’re seeing that with malls in general. It’s just a struggle to get people into locations.

“The fact is you really can’t beat the convenience of shopping online,” she said.

By 2013, Artsy Abode expanded with a franchise location of Pandora jewelry — one of the shop’s best sellers — becoming Northeast Florida’s first stand-alone retailers for the well-known charm company.

That Pandora franchise, along with others that Lytle and her husband operate, will remain open.

Other well-known brands the shop has carried over the years include Alex and Ani, Lilly Pulitzer, Simply Southern and Brighton.

The Lytles have expanded the brand to include more than 20 locations of Artsy Abode, Pandora and So Mermazing, a version specific to St. Augustine.

As noted on the boutique’s Facebook, the Fleming Island and Ormond Beach locations also are closing and are hosting sales. Closing dates were not specified.

“I love this store,” one Facebook user commented. “So sorry it’s closing.”

Lytle says she’s “glass half full” about the situation, considering the closures an opportunity to consolidate and focus on the remaining locations.

“The locations that are closing are positioning us to do better with what’s open,” she said.

Lytle also said the closings won’t leave Artsy Abode’s employees jobless.

“All of our employees have been offered positions and raises in other locations of mine,” she said. “We are also offering bonus packages for staying through the liquidation period.”

Lytle encourages customers to take advantage of the sales.

“We’d love to see everyone out there,” she said.

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