Stepping Up: women’s boutique donates clothing to domestic violence victims

PROVIDENCE – News reports that domestic violence has increased since the onset of the new coronavirus hit close to home for Dixie Carroll.

While Carroll herself has not been victimized, her mother was – a fact she did not learn until after her mother’s death in 2008. Her mother did not want her to know, Carroll explained, but after her death, Carroll’s father shared with her the horrors his wife had endured prior to their meeting and Carroll’s birth.

“It’s such a scar that affects people so strongly,” Carroll explained.

So it was only fitting that Carroll, who co-owns J Marcel, a woman’s clothing boutique in Providence, decided to make a nonprofit supporting victims of domestic violence the first beneficiary of a new “buy one, give one” campaign. The new program, which launched on Sunday, commits to donating one item of clothing to Sojourner House, a nonprofit that serves battered adults and their children, for every piece of clothing purchased by phone or through its online store.

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Carroll described the donation-based policy, which she plans to make permanent even when the company reopens its Hope Street brick-and-mortar store, as a natural extension of the community contributions that have long been a focus of J Marcel. She and her husband and co-owner Bill Jette, actually discussed launching a similar donation campaign prior to the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19.

Shuttering their doors, in some ways, gave the couple the time needed to step back and reflect on how to change their business model, Carroll said.

“When you’re working in your business every day, it’s hard to step back and say ‘what big changes do we want to make,’” she explained.

Carroll acknowledged that donating items she could otherwise sell during a time when revenue was especially tight could be a challenge but was confident that the 12-year business’ loyal customer base would come through.

On Tuesday morning, a few days after beginning the program, J Marcel had donated approximately 20 pieces of clothing based on customer purchases, she said. 

Her voice grew shaky as she reflected on what her mother would think of her business decision.

“I am sure she would be very proud,” she said. “She was a giving, empathetic person who had a really great ability to put herself in someone else’s shoes.”

Providence Business News is spotlighting nonprofits, companies and workers stepping up to challenges presented by the spread of the new coronavirus.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at