In this ongoing series, ArtRat Gallery Social Media Manager Maddy Visscher explores the people, places and things that make our neighborhood great. Email Maddy with feedback and suggestions about the topics you want to see us cover!
Since it opened in November 2021 at 317 Division Ave. S, OTONO hasn’t stopped innovating. The second-hand store doubled its floor space in August when it expanded into a neighboring storefront; now owners Emmanuel Ibarra and Alana Sawicki have carved out a space for visitors to gather for conversation and caffeine.
OTONO’s new lounge area features a commercial-grade espresso machine and comfortable seating.
Drinks are on the house (although the team gratefully accepts tips). According to Emmanuel, the space creates a much-needed hangout for visitors to OTONO and the other SoDiv businesses near Wealthy Street.
“I wanted to share something that I love, as well as add to the experience of OTONO,” he said. "We love selling clothes, but we also want to offer something more. Being associated with coffee helps us build up our reputation. People can get to know us and grow with us as we work to become a full fledged, licensed cafe.
“OTONO started as my pop-up project,” Emmanuel continued. He started hosting pop-ups in 2019 at a variety of spaces, including Heartside’s own Lantern Coffee Bar and Lounge (100 Commerce Ave. SW). In the process, he crossed paths with Alana, whose handmade spoon rings are featured at their shop. “She has amazing taste and style,” Emmanuel said.
Alana told ArtRat she looks to another Heartside merchant for business advice: Her older sister, Melissa Looman, owns Echo Salon at 24 Sheldon Ave. SE. “I’m inspired to push further than expectations, and to take risks.”
OTONO prides itself on fitting all sizes and budgets — with clothing that ranges from XXS to 4X, frequent sales and a $5 rack. Its curated second-hand clothing includes tons of basics, neutrals and unique finds as well as name-brand activewear and home goods. “We do our best to keep our prices affordable,” Alana told ArtRat. The shop also hosts free events such as mending workshops with Betel Box Design.
Alana said the new coffee area helps promote OTONO’s mission to create community. “When we opened OTONO, it was partially because we wanted to be interconnected, to meet the cool young people of Grand Rapids,” she said. “After the pandemic, we felt our sense of community had suffered. And I missed talking to people!”
With Alana and Emmanuel working side by side, OTONO has grown “faster than expected,” Emmanuel told ArtRat.
“We had to work hard, to learn how to communicate with each other, how to work together, ” Alana said. “There were a lot of growing pains — but it worked out.
“We both have our roles that we play, our responsibilities, our strengths. Emmanuel does all the paperwork and the hard stuff, and I do the social media and keep positive relations with our sellers, always making sure we have stock,” Alana said. “We can’t believe we get to do this,” Emmanuel exclaimed. “This would not be possible without both of us.”
Looking ahead, OTONO’s plans include additional seating and a possible new business venture.
“We’re excited to grow into a more formal cafe, and to spark more conversations and create new experiences.” Emmanuel said.
OTONO is open Thursday 4-8pm, Friday and Saturday 12-6pm, and Sunday 12-4pm. It shares SoDiv’s vintage district with Zabház (222 Division Ave. S), Decaydence Vintage (71 Division Ave. S) and Second Vibess (13 Division Ave. S). OTONO is on the same block as Cocoon Art Space (327 Division Ave. S) and a 5-minute walk from ArtRat Gallery (46 Division Ave. S).