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A Virtual Cup of Coffee with Allison Montague '88

Every so often, we get to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee with an East alum who's doing something really interesting. Recently, we sat down with Allison Montague. Want to join us? Pull up a chair!

Allison (Armstrong) Montague ’88 has a BA from Skidmore, a Masters in Clinical Social Work from Smith, and a JD from the University of Denver. We’re pretty sure that makes her the best-educated store owner in Gaslight Village (she owns and operates Snapdragon Boutique). She and her husband Jeff have two daughters: Claire, who graduated from East in 2018, and Lily, who’s a member of the East Class of 2020.

You can only have one: Rose’s caramel corn, an ice cream cone from Jersey Junction, or a Yesterdog. Which do you choose?
Obviously this is a hard one, but I would have to go with Yester because I have a lot of fun memories, albeit a little fuzzy ones, associated with going there.

What was your path from East Grand Rapids to where you are now in life?
After graduating from East I attended Skidmore College graduating with a double major in Government and Psychology with a minor in Spanish, earned my Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Smith College, and a JD from the University of Denver. After working as a Child & Family Therapist in both Grand Rapids and Denver, I practiced Labor & Employment law at Holland & Hart in Denver and at Varnum in Grand Rapids. Shortly after passing the bar exam in Michigan, Meg Sebastian Evans (fellow EGR alum) called to discuss her idea to open a children’s clothing store in Denver. I had recently moved back from there, and I tried to convince her to move back to East and open one here instead. Long story short, she didn’t, but I did. Fifteen years later I still own and operate Snapdragon Boutique in Gaslight Village.

What specific thing did you learn in East that has enabled you to be successful?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, meet new people, and put yourself out there. I had a great time in high school, in large part because of all the different opportunities I had to participate in a variety of activities, play on different teams, and even do a bit part in the musical. These opportunities not only expanded my interests, but they also allowed me to become friends with people I might not have met otherwise.

What were you like in school?
Most people would remember me as your typical student council, honors classes kind of girl. I was a member of the golf and debate teams, volunteered at the Child Guidance Clinic (now Arbor Circle), helped start the Key Club, and spent a lot of time hanging out with friends. I like to think that I was pretty nice to everyone, and I enjoyed friendships with people from from a variety of different social groups.

Did you have a favorite teacher or class?
Hard to choose just one as I loved all my English teachers (Mrs. Graham, Mr. Froysland, Mrs. Mitchell), and I had a great time doing Debate with Mrs. Knack, but I would have to say Mrs. Gignac and the Dartmouth Spanish program. Sadly it’s not around anymore, but this class was a great opportunity to both learn Spanish and to teach it as well.

If you had to choose one moment in one location to serve as the signature moment of your East school experience, what would it be?
Graduation on the football field—it is so quintessentially East. It was a beautiful night, in a beautiful location, surrounded by friends and family and a community that gave me so much. To this day I get emotional when I drive by and see graduation. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
How good we had it. Going to college in New York with kids who attended prestigious private schools, I found that not only was I as well prepared as they were for college (if not better!), I also had a lot more opportunities than they did. Moreover, the unbelievable support for kids in this community is unparalleled. From athletics, to drama, to We the People or the International Baccalaureate program, the whole community really cares and supports the kids and makes them feel valued for their participation.

Do you stay in touch with many people from East Grand Rapids?
Yes, I keep in touch with all my close friends from East, and I try to see them as much as possible. Living in East now gives me the added benefit of seeing people when they come home to visit. Also, I just attended my 30th reunion and it was amazing to get to catch up with so many classmates that I hadn’t seen in ages!

What advice do you have for young East alums who are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to change course. I am a planner, always have been and always will be. Unlike most high school graduates, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: Become a child and family therapist to gain firsthand knowledge of their needs, then attend law school to become a child advocate. I did all that, but ultimately realized that it wasn’t for me. After being exposed to a variety of different legal issues during my internship at the Colorado Supreme Court, I decided to practice labor and employment law and do child advocacy pro bono work utilizing the resources available at a large firm. But in the words of John Lennon, life happens when you are busy making other plans. One random phone call, and six months later I am opening a children’s clothing store. 

Who else would you like us to have a virtual cup of coffee with?
Andrew Palmer, Margie Bradshaw, Jim Berles, Jenny Katt Warren, Lisa Stevenson, Antonio Gracias, and Kerry Eleveld. 

Bonus question: What are you glad we didn’t ask you about?
The time that I allegedly led the senior class out of the Academic Boosters awards ceremony. Let’s just say that it seemed like a great idea at the time.

For more "Virtual Cup of Coffee with..." visit our Alumni Profiles page.