By Sue Whistler

Suzanne Mentley Roberts has always loved to travel. With a degree in jewelry design from Buffalo State University and a sharp eye for the unusual, it was only a matter of time before she found a way to combine her talent for design and passion for travel into a career.

When Roberts returned to Ellicottville from one of her trips to Indonesia in 1997, she brought home several samples of unique and exotic clothing, accessories and gift items that she had gathered during her travels. She showed some of these pieces to her good friend Gretchen Mendell, owner of Nature’s Remedy and shared her dream of eventually opening her own boutique in the village.

Mendell had recently opened Nature’s Remedy, a natural market and holistic wellness center in about 1,000 square feet in the old Market Square building. It was more space than she needed at the time for her new shop so she offered to let Roberts share the space with her. Both businesses thrived and eventually grew out of their shared space. Mendell took over all 1,000 square feet, Roberts expanded her international boutique into 1,500 square feet right across the hall from Nature’s Remedy … and Gado-Gado was born.

Gado-Gado is a Balinese word for an eclectic mixture of ingredients often used in reference to a salad. It is the perfect name to describe the unique clothing and giftware from around the world that is featured in Gado-Gado and sets it apart from the usual mall chain stores and department store fare. Roberts has chosen her merchandise carefully and describes the inventory as “accessible pieces that are affordable, unique and a little edgier.”

Last May, Gado-Gado moved from the old Market Square building into a beautifully renovated building that previously housed the Double Diamond Saloon. Roberts’ old friend and retail roommate Mendell purchased the building last winter and transformed it into a retail showplace for both businesses with Gado-Gado in one half and Nature’s Remedy in the other.  Roberts added her own special, internationally inspired touches to her side to create what she describes as “something beautiful and comfortable that is not exclusive or stuffy.”

There are some special challenges to running a successful women’s clothing and accessories boutique in a small resort town like Ellicottville, according to Roberts. Timing is the biggest difference because seasonal changes in merchandise happen much earlier and more quickly to accommodate and take advantage of the busy, but relatively short, retail “high season.” Here in Ellicottville, that season begins with a capital “S” for Ski and only lasts for about four months.

Ellicottville’s unique seasonal demographics also add an interesting dynamic to Roberts’ business. People of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds visit Ellicottville from all over the country. These visitors converge on the village and mingle with our year-round local residents to create a wonderfully diverse market niche that Roberts has learned to fill very successfully.

There is something to catch the eye of virtually every shopper of any age at Gado-Gado. Younger clients love the reasonably priced and trendier fashion items, while the more mature shopper find plenty of beautiful and fashionable pieces with a unique flair. Roberts has also stocked her boutique with a wonderfully diverse inventory of distinctive and unusual jewelry, accessories and gift items that will appeal to most everyone.

Spring has already sprung at Gado-Gado with the latest in spring fashions arriving daily. If you’re looking for something a little different that you just won’t see on your best friend at the next neighborhood soirée or wedding reception, step off the beaten path and take a stroll down Monroe Street to visit Gado-Gado. Just don’t tell anyone where you got that special something until after you’ve had a chance to wear it at least once.

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