Love and community are common themes among successful downtown Camas businesses. And the award-winning women’s shoe and clothing boutique Arktana was built upon this foundation.

Owner Ann Matthews has called Camas home for two decades and was in the jewelry business before setting her sights on opening a shoe boutique along a burgeoning downtown Camas corridor. “When the space opened up on 4th Avenue, I knew it was time. And I had no doubt ever that Camas was the perfect place to open,” she said. “I wanted to be in a community setting and I loved all the events that went on downtown. I was so excited to be able to participate on the merchant side.”

She opened her boutique in April of 2014, six years ago this month. “I had always loved accessories and clothes. When I was ready to change directions, I felt like there was a need for a local shoe boutique, I wanted to fill a need and do it with something I loved,” she said. “It was a perfect fit.”

She recalled Arktana started off “very small” with only half the retail space they have now. She used dividers and closed off the back half of the space. And they only had shoes in the beginning. “But I knew if I could build a solid base, and grow from there, it would be worth the wait.”

After a few successful seasons, she decided to open up the back half of the store. “It felt so huge then,” Ann said. “And once we grew, we added handbags. Then jewelry. We grew steadily and surely, and were able to expand a little at a time. While Arktana started as a little tiny shoe boutique, we have grown in to a women’s boutique where we offer shoes, clothing, handbags and jewelry.”

And she knows well the reason for this. “I am very grateful for the support from the Camas community and so proud to have grown and thrived in Camas.” She built her knowledge of the business by leaning on friends and other boutique owners for support in the beginning. “Dawn Stanchfield, the former owner of Lily Atelier, was always there to help guide and support me, she taught me so much and was able to really show me a lot. With help from her and many others, I have learned everything as I have gone through each day, month and year,” she said.

And that support and kindness she speaks of is what she believes is the best quality of her customer base. “I’m so grateful for the genuine kindness and overall support of our customers. Yet, they are so much more than customers, they are friends, and people we care so much about.”

As people of the Northwest are far more adventurous than in other parts of the country, what are Arktana customers buying these days? Boots? Outdoor wear? Maybe heels and dress shoes? “For the most part, our customers are the same as always, and they are looking for fashion and comfort combined. Everyday styles they are comfortable in,” she explained.

You can tell the entire team at Arktana loves the interaction and help they give their customers. Ann said that each team member truly cares and “finds connections with our customers that go so far above shoes and clothing. We connect with our customers on a personal level. They are our friends!”

Talking with customers and getting to know them is paramount for the team. Arktana often serves as a gathering place, where many people start their lunch and dinner dates, and they hear all the time, “I’m meeting my friends here then we are headed to lunch.” Ann said they relish in that feeling, being a general meeting spot. “We are thankful to be part of their day!”

Being right next door to the Camas Hotel, Arktana folks are able to see many of Camas’ visitors. The have the opportunity to meet many of them, some that are passing through, others looking to relocate to the area. With an online store, Arktana is able to make shopping easy once visitors return home.

“When people come to Camas to visit their family that live here, Arktana is often a stop they make each time they visit,” Ann said. “We look forward to seeing so many of our customers on their annual trip to see their family. My favorite thing to hear is, ‘we just landed, we came directly here. I’ve seen so many things on your Facebook page I can’t wait to try on.’ And that happens a lot actually.”

Soon, visitors and regulars will make their way to their favorite gathering spots downtown, like Arktana, where you can always find heart and “sole.”