Almost five years ago, Kristy Stewart's 4-year-old son, Kyle, passed away from AL-M7 leukemia. He loved the color green.

Almost five years ago, Kristy Stewart’s 4-year-old son, Kyle, passed away from AL-M7 leukemia. He loved the color green. The death of her son, coupled with her father-in-law and brother’s passings, caused her to re-evaluate her life, which she’d been spending as an associate buyer for a variety of corporations.

 “After that happened I just wanted to follow my dreams,” Stewart said. “I feel like you have to do whatever makes you happy, and if you’re not happy then you need to do all you can to change the way your life is.”

Her way of following her dreams was to open Sugar Loves Spice, a boutique clothing store on Portage Lakes Drive that sells trendy women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts with a charitable angle.

Stewart knew in her gut when she walked into the space — sandwiched between Asian Gardens Restaurant and The Lily Pad Children’s Resale Shop — that it was the one. The avocado green walls reminded her of her late son, and the previous renter, who owned a yoga shop, had had the space blessed by monks.

“I love this little shopping center, and when I came in here, it just felt right,” she said. “It gets old shopping the same stuff, and it kind of makes the area more interesting when there’s stuff like this. If you could build more businesses like that, people would actually come here just to shop and eat.”

Stewart, a 1997 Coventry High School graduate who studied fashion merchandising at Brooks College in Long Beach, Calif., said the inspiration for the store and its décor comes from the boutiques she shopped in Southern California.

The space now features brightly colored walls, a larger-than-life wall decal of Audrey Hepburn and fun, wallpapered accent walls lined with tank tops, sweaters, dresses, pants and other clothing items.

Stewart said that her target audience is women aged 20 to 45, but since her June 20 opening she’s seen women both younger and older than that group.

“You can always look fun and younger with clothing, you just have to be confident wearing it. There are some people who come in and say ‘this is too young for me,’ but I don’t think it is. You just have to feel good in it,” she said.

Stewart describes her clothing and accessories as things you can’t find anywhere else.

“Being 35, people think you should dress a certain way, plus I’m a mom. But I’ve never been attracted to that type of clothing. I’ve always liked fun, unique, vibrant clothing that makes a statement. And that’s the compliments I’ve been getting, that my clothing is unique,” she said.

Emily Ladich, a Sugar Loves Spice patron, likened Stewart’s styles to clothes found at Forever 21.

“This is, like, my fourth time in here,” Ladich said. “I saw all the anchor stuff, and I’m obsessed with anchors, so I love all the clothes.”

Stewart said the anchor-adorned clothes are a trendy homage to the Portage Lakes and that they are attracting shoppers of all ages.

Following the death of her son, Stewart took medical leave and started taking a jewelry making class, where she discovered her love for the craft. The shop is stocked with some of Stewart’s pieces as well as items from other suppliers.

But a large part of Stewart’s business is giving back. On the first Friday of every month, Stewart donates 20 percent of sales to an organization in an event she calls “Spread the Love.” The first one, held Sept. 5, raised funds for Akron Children’s Hospital, and she has future dates planned for organizations that raise funds and awareness for human trafficking and juvenile diabetes organizations.

“I want to help the community in any way possible, and there are so many people that helped me in my situation that I would like to give back to, and I think that’s why I called it ‘Spread the Love,’” because when you’re going through such a difficult time and everybody just shows you compassion, you do feel — even if you’re depressed — you feel this overwhelming love from people.”

Stewart also plans to host private events where groups can bring between 15 and 50 guests to shop to raise 25 percent of sales for their organization.

For more information on Sugar Loves Spice visit 449 Portage Lakes Dr. or or call 330-645-9105.