When I was a kid, my grandmother, who was a beautiful woman and a classy dresser, would take us downtown to go shopping for clothes. Most often it was for back-to-school or Easter Sunday, and this was back in the day when it was considered inappropriate to be seen in a dress shop in slacks. Another thing about that era, (the ‘50s and ‘60s, for those of you who are curious,) is that it was expected that any member of a clothing store staff would help you make your selections. They were trained to be helpful, respectful, observant, and fashion savvy. That style of customer care went the way of filling stations, but is thankfully alive and well at the Southerland Boutiques in Athens and Ardmore.
Amy Hobbs Boone, the owner of both boutiques, told me that she feels the thing that sets Southerland Boutiques apart is that her people are well trained and ready to serve. This is true whether one is “just looking,” or, as I observed, a customer is building a whole new wardrobe, and desires a lot of input and assistance.
Amy essentially grew up being in business, and the Hobbs family is well known in our area as entrepreneurs and business owners. Amy spent 14 years of her career working as a multi-million dollar producing real estate agent. Her husband, Daniel, owns a contracting company. She has always enjoyed fashion, but it was the challenge of finding age appropriate clothing at a reasonable price for her daughter Taylor that moved her toward her latest venture.
In 2012, she converted a spare room in her home into a boutique, largely purchased her inventory online, advertised it on Facebook, and she told me, “I would even deliver the orders to people in my car.” She did so well that in 2014 she opened the first Southerland Boutique in Ardmore, and named it after her mother’s maiden name. It is located at 29976 1st Ave East, across from the Methodist Church. Dining room chairs have been painted and hung on the walls, with the bottom rungs functioning as clothing display racks, and the seats are used for all kinds of displays. The clothing is soft, flowing, sharp looking, and reasonably priced. The accessories, including candles, earrings, necklaces, scarves and purses have that definite “unique boutique” feel, and the boot socks and fingerless gloves are hand crocheted. The Ardmore store also carries OTBT shoes.
Earlier this month, a boutique became available in the recently renovated shops that are just north of the Limestone County Courthouse Annex building, and Southerland Boutiques Athens opened for business. This shop is charming as well, with the original exposed brick, repurposed furniture, and old-style metal pipes being used as the clothing racks. As important as ambience is, what I experienced when my youngest went there to get some new clothes was virtually miraculous. She was heading off to school to get her Master’s degree as a Certified Nurse Midwife, needed a new “business casual” look, and found it in abundance!
The whole staff got involved in making selections, bringing them to her, giving their opinion, and then having her come out of the dressing room to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of all. We all watched her bloom in that moment, and there were some happy misty eyes as we saw this beautiful Carolina Butterfly emerge from her “fashion cocoon,” spread her wings, and then “fly” out of the boutique. Lining her arms were pretty bags which had been carefully packed with her new purchases. She looked stunning, and more importantly, she had been supported in the way my grandmother would have expected. That extra touch of customer service was truly powerful, and the womenfolk of our tribe no doubt will be long term raving fans of Southerland Boutiques. Sabrina Self, one of the sales staff who helped in the “metamorphosis” said, (in reference to the shopping spree), “She just made my day.” Jeanny Miller, another member of the team present in the shop that day, told me that this is the first job she has ever had that she “loves to get up and go to every day.”
Some of the features that set Southerland Boutiques apart include: a huge selection from which to choose, new items arriving each week, the people are friendly, down to earth and personable, and they are all fashion smart.
The Athens shop is going to have its Grand Opening on Saturday, December 19th, from 10-5. There will be drawings for door prizes, and for every $100 you spend, you get $20 off. Come and experience a level of service from a bygone era, and fashion and accessories that are right up to the minute, or, as they say in Paris, “a la mode.”
Southerland Boutique-Ardmore Southerland Boutique-Athens
29976 1st Ave East Ardmore, AL 35739 105 East Market Street Athens, AL 35611
Hours: M-F 10-6, Sat 10-2 M-F 10-6, Sat 10-5
Facebook: Southerland Boutique Instagram: southerlandboutique By: Ali Elizabeth Turner