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Jillian Kelly wants to get the party started

By SUZANNE ELLIOTT, The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — At a young age, Jillian Kelly knew she wanted to have her own store. That wish was nurtured when, still a child, her parents gifted her with a cardboard shop. She was further encouraged by the flea markets she frequented as an adolescent.

“I wanted my store to be fun, with all kinds of things,” recalled Kelly, now 39. “I worked a bunch of different jobs and knew I wanted a good vintage store.”

Her vision eventually became a reality.

Seven years ago, Kelly opened Retro-tique on Walnut Street. The eclectic store, which sells a host of items, all mostly retro-themed, became a popular shopping destination for people looking for the perfect gift for the person who has everything.

Then a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Morgantown. Kelly found she had to make a decision about the store’s future.

It wasn’t easy, but she closed her store last summer and placed her inventory online, RetrotiqueBoutique.com. On the site, shoppers can purchase a mini handmade Ouija board and planchette, wooden robot toys, Crown Royal bags (available 20 at a time), a floral chicken Hobo bag, tarot cards, and a genuine British Bobby hat, to name a few things.

But Retro-tique is just part of how Jillian Kelly spends her time. In 2018, the Morgantown native started Morgantown Art Party, a nonprofit geared toward fostering the careers of local artists. It is located in the Retro-tique space.

“COVID made me take a break,” Kelly said of her store.

But Morgantown Art Party is just getting started. The nonprofit, originally conceived as a monthly get-together for local artists, is now a gallery, music venue and workshop, all aimed at bolstering the local arts scene and bringing the community together.

During the COVID-19 restrictions, Kelly had to live-stream Morgantown Art Party events such as the third annual Weird and Wonderful West Virginia show, a combination of live music and art. Now with restrictions being lifted, Kelly is hopeful of offering those kinds of events in-person, and teaming up with popular local events like the Arts Walk, which is slated to get underway April 10.

“As things continue, I plan to have more,” she said.

As for Retro-tique, Kelly says she plans to re-open the store, possibly in two years or so, possibly in a smaller space.

“It all depends,” she said. “I am passionate about our homeless problem. I want to help others. But my work is my life, and I am happy to have survived COVID.”