Tonya Gilbert is the owner and operator of Park Avenue Boutique in Edwardsville and is the co-owner and operator of Shawn Michaels Salon/Spa & Boutique in Wilkes-Barre. Gilbert, 39, is a native of Kingston and is a graduate of West Side Area Vocational Technical School. She is also a graduate of the Academy of Creative Hair Design, Luzerne County Community College and Misericordia University. She has a son, Payton, 19. She lives in Kingston.
What first inspired you to open your own boutique? I was sick of going to the mall. Like every woman — and we go shopping constantly — I was sick of seeing the same stuff, and everybody would be wearing it, and the price was $70 or $80 for something that you wore once or twice. Women don’t like to wear the same things all the time. At the time, I owned two hair salons, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I knew I’d rather do clothes and style and purses. A woman wants new shoes and purses every day. Even though we have 50 in our closet, we want a new one, because it makes us feel better. I wanted to open a boutique where you’d never see another person wearing what you bought, and where the price range was unbelievable. In my store, instead of buying one purse, you can buy three.
You’ve been open for seven years. What do you still enjoy about it? I meet new people every day and I make new friends. I love people. And I like shopping. I love going to New York and picking items out, and then when someone buys them in my store, that’s my excitement and my high. It’s like, “I picked that out, and she’s buying it. Awesome. She’s wearing my clothes.” I was at a festival in New Jersey about two years ago, and I saw this girl wearing one of my dresses. I said, “Did you get that in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?” and she said, “Yes. I was up there visiting.” I love that.
What do you do in your free time to relax? I just got my real estate license, so I’ll be doing that as well. Whenever I have free time, I do something else. I’m also an Advocare representative and sell Advocare.
But that’s also work. What do you do to chill? We like go to the movies and go out to eat.
All-time favorite music? Journey, Air Supply, Poison … I’m a total ‘80s girl. And I can also listen to some R&B and some rap.
Favorite color? Green.
First car? A green ’95 or ’96 Ford Mustang GT.
Favorite city? New York.
Favorite vacation spot? Vegas.
Favorite thing about NEPA? Friends, family and my business.
Favorite food? Pizza.
All-time favorite movies? “Dirty Dancing” and “Pretty Woman.”
Favorite TV show? “Game of Thrones.”
Favorite holiday? Christmas.
Are you reading anything right now? “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine. And I read The Bible. I’ve come a long way, and I have a good life now, and I always want to remind myself of how grateful I am.
Biggest pet peeve? Texting while you’re driving.
Guilty pleasure? Skipping the gym. Then I feel horrible.
Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends? When was younger, I used to do a lot. I had a motorcycle, and I used to go to Florida all the time. I was young and more spirited. I also did bungee-jumping. Now, I’m just right by the book. I just don’t take off like that anymore, and I don’t have a motorcycle. I’m boring now. And everything that my mother would preach to me when I was younger, “Don’t do this, don’t do that …” I now preach to my kid.
Most defining personal moment? Having my son put me on the right track. I stopped going out all the time. I got a business going. I continued my education and really stayed focused. He really made me want to go to college and get my life on track. I wanted to take care of him.