photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Chronic Sunshine, a new boutique in downtown Lawrence, is pictured on June 9, 2021.

Maybe the pandemic won’t cause the entire world to go online after all. One new downtown clothing boutique is betting that’s the case.

Chronic Sunshine opened recently at 1023 Massachusetts St., and owner Melissa Garcia said the thought of giving people a chance to shop without a keyboard was appealing.

“We really focus on the experience of shopping,” Garcia said. “I wanted to do something to bring back the experience of in-store shopping. It is about coming with your friends and enjoying a shopping trip.”

The shop — which is in the spot that previously housed Supersonic Music before it moved a few doors down — focuses on women’s clothing and accessories. Garcia said the shop attracts a lot of college, high school and even middle school students due to the styles of clothing the boutique stocks.

“Right now, the theme is really lots of clothes with really vibrant colors,” she said.

But, in some ways, the clothes are secondary.

“Serving people is what is really great,” Garcia said. “The clothes are just a great bonus.”

Garcia said the store is set up to provide a highly assisted shopping experience, if that is what a customer desires.

“We try to make the shopping experience exclusive,” she said.

That includes assigning one store employee to assist you through the entire shopping trip. And, yes, that will include recommendations and feedback on what you’ve tried on, if that is what you want.

“We do have some loyal customers who want our opinion 100 percent, and they basically just go with whatever we suggest,” Garcia said.

Other customers, though, come in with earbuds and want to just shop on their own, which Garcia said is fine too.

“We really, really want you to love the experience, and we customize that experience to each person,” she said.

Garcia grew up in the retail business. Her mother worked in a boutique, and Garcia often went to work with her mother.

“I knew how to work a register at the age of six, and I knew how to fold and steam too,” she said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Summer fashion is the focus currently at Chronic Sunshine, a new boutique in downtown Lawrence.

Garcia took the jump two years ago by opening a boutique in Garden City. Recently, she closed that store and is focusing on the Lawrence location.

That Garden City store also was called Chronic Sunshine. The current crop of clothes, combined with the name, might cause you to think the store focuses only on summer clothes. But that’s not correct. Garcia said the clothing does change with the seasons.

But the store’s name does have a hidden meaning. It is a bit of tribute to her late brother. He died shortly before she opened the Garden City store. When thinking what to name the store, she remembered an inside joke that she shared with her brother. When the two traveled together, he always insisted on using the alias of Joe Chronic.

“I was opening the store with a heavy burden,” she said. “He had just passed away and I wanted to do something that honored him.”

But she didn’t love the idea of Joe Chronic as a name for the store. Instead, she started thinking of things that would be good to chronically have.

“I came up with sunshine because I believe no matter how bad your day is, the sunshine will always come out,” Garcia said.

•••

In other news and notes from around town, let me pass along a few KU tidbits that have made their way into my notebook. I’m covering KU a bit more than I have in the past, so if you have news tips related to the university, send them my way.

• Chancellor Douglas Girod gave his weekly update on COVID-19 matters on campus and answered a growing question about the university’s mask policy. As we’ve reported, KU is no longer requiring masks for people on campus, although they strongly recommend them for people who are not fully vaccinated.

Girod said there have been several questions about whether individual departments or schools at KU could create their own, more restrictive mask policies. He said that is not allowed.

“This really is a campus-wide policy,” Girod said, although he noted some public transportation locations and health care centers on campus have been given the authority to have more restrictive mask policies.

But the rest of the campus will use the idea of “if you want to wear a mask you can, but if you don’t want to you don’t have to.” In his video message to campus, Girod made several appeals for students and staff to get vaccinated, and stressed that KU’s policy was predicated on an important shift in thinking on how to combat the virus.

“We’ve reached a critical and frankly very exciting point in the pandemic where there is a shift of responsibility,” Girod said. “We have the ability to get vaccinated and protect ourselves in this situation, and we most definitely should take advantage of that opportunity.”

• Girod also confirmed that KU has ended its policy of requiring events on campus to get special approval from university officials. Those special approvals had been put in place to limit crowd sizes and other factors that could have led to the spread of the virus. Girod said events still are required to go through a registration process, and organizers are still reminded to use best practices in hosting events. But now that events no longer are required to get special approval, activity levels are picking up significantly, he said.

“That really will help us move to more activity on campus over the course of the summer,” Girod said.

• Girod said KU officials are still trying to determine the financial implications to KU from the state of Kansas’ recently approved budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins in July. He said the final budget cut KU’s base state funding by 2.5%. But the university is still waiting for information from the Kansas Board of Regents about one-time money that is being made available to the university. Schools are still awaiting guidance on what restrictions will be placed on those one-time funds.

Girod, though, said the one-time funds won’t eliminate KU’s need to make budget cuts to address a “structural budget shortfall.” He said state lawmakers did little to help with that situation.

“The state really hasn’t done a tremendous amount to help us with our budgetary challenges,” Girod said. “All the work that has been going on to address those structural budget challenges on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses will continue as planned.”

We’ve reported KU is planning on about $26 million in budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year.