by Jordan DeWald

You walk into a boutique and your senses awaken. You hear the jingle of the bell and a greeting from a salesperson. You smell the candle burning in the store and your eyes take in the colors of textiles on the racks. As you walk through, you run your hands against the cotton, linen, and silk. Boutique shopping is an experience. It is communal and interactive. The boutiques of Burleson, Texas excel at this. The women who run these boutiques are innovative, creative, adaptive businesswomen who are also a friend to the people who walk in their shops.

To shop in a locally owned boutique is to become a part of the owner’s story. They all came to shop owning for different reasons. Christan McCord, the owner of MeccaFox, started her business in her home, making druzy earrings. She outgrew her home and moved into a small space where she sold earrings, shirts, and heat transfer vinyl that was not available anywhere else in town. She grew a following and opened up MeccaFox as a boutique. Becky Stricklin, owner of Rebecca’s, has been a fixture in Old Town Burleson and has helped many women find outfits for occasions. Extremely Refined, owned by Mackenzie Prescher, also includes Extreme Sports & Custom Designs. They have supplied spirit wear for the community as well as customized products. Leslie Lummus opened Pink Chandelier with her daughter ten years ago. Her daughter’s priorities have shifted to raising her own kids but Leslie had fallen in love with owning a small business and has continued to run the store. Jaxson James is the brainchild of Harlee Huggins. She offers contemporary fashion utilizing a storefront and an online presence from the beginning. Mary Joe DeLuca Uribe offered beauty services through FOTA Beauty and decided to use the extra space to open a store front boutique. That was done during the unfortunate timing of the pandemic but she persevered. Betsy Harty has owned Accents in multiple locations, with the Burleson location having primarily home decor. Over the past years, Betsy has focused primarily on Accents of Burleson and includes a clothing selection with her decor and floral design offerings.

Ten years ago, there were just two clothing boutiques for women in Burleson, Rebecca’s and Pink Chandelier. Now there are at least seven within a three-mile radius. Leslie Lummus is the owner of Pink Chandelier. She describes Burleson as now being a “boutique shopping experience.” Instead of being discouraged by the competition, Leslie is excited by it. There is a good relationship between the shop owners. In fact, they are working together to make the best experience possible for their customers. The owners created a Facebook group together called Shopped Burleson Boutiques. This group of over two thousand members lets customers know what is offered at the different shops. The boutiques have also come together to host an Open House weekend in November. Each shop will host an Open House at their location and customers are encouraged to visit each boutique. These businesswomen continue to evolve their business practices to best serve their customers.

For the last several years, there was a real concern about online shopping taking over brick and mortar stores. That was until consumers learned what it was like to not have the experience of walking into a store to find what they need. In 2020, shutdowns due to Covid-19 brought challenges that no business owner had ever faced. One positive that has come out of it for boutiques is that the shoppers realized the value with in-person shopping for the types of items boutiques sale. According to Forbes, “Post-pandemic, in-person shopping will be reserved for the stuff that sparks joy or adds value.” People will continue to shop online for things that aren’t fun to shop for, like paper towels or socks, but the items that invoke a reaction are even more popular to buy in-store now. During the shutdowns, shoppers missed the experience! Mary Joe DeLuca Uribe originally planned to only have an online boutique as a part of FOTA Beauty. She was encouraged to have a physical location as well and now her boutique shares a space with the location she offers beauty treatments in.

Shopping in person in a boutique offers benefits that online shopping cannot. The article began with the sensory experience of a shop. Feeling welcomed and remembered is a value done best by a small business. Betsy Harty and her staff at Accents of Burleson excels at offering an excellent in-person experience with warm and helpful customer service. The employees of the boutique make a real difference. They provide their expertise to help the customer, especially ones who are uncertain about what style works for them. The average shopper does not have the time or interest to follow trends. They rely on boutiques to tell them what is in style for their area. The employees become style experts and can help shoppers find what will be the most flattering. Ladies have become loyal Jaxson James shoppers because the owner, Harlee Huggins, has been helpful in finding them clothes that are in their size and are flattering. Pink Chandelier boasts about one of their employees who is an expert in fitting women in the right jeans. Rebecca’s has one of the larger varieties of clothing but Becky Stricklin and her employees know every article and can direct the shoppers to the specific style they are looking for.

This does not mean online shopping is no longer a part of owning a boutique. On the contrary, now a boutique owner has to be able to run a fully functioning store both in-person and online. There is no escaping that this is an online society and people are busy. Social media is a necessary part of boutique ownership. When stores were shut down due to Covid, store owners had to get creative to keep their stores open. Accents offered personal shopping, offering to FaceTime customers as they walked through the store. Many of them turned to live sales on Facebook so customers could see what the store had to offer. Leslie credits the live sales to being vital to keeping her employees paid during the shutdown- “online boutique owners were the pioneers of Facebook Live selling and really taught us brick and mortar stores how to get it done.” Extremely Refined has been doing Facebook Live sales for several years, allowing owner Mackenzie Prescher to have a clientele extend well outside of Burleson. Customers enjoy the interaction they get with the staff during the Lives. They feel like they know Mackenzie and her mom, Lisa, who has assisted Mackenzie over the years. They watched Christina participate in whatever challenge issued to her in the Pink Chandelier Lives during the pandemic. The models for Jaxson James always seem to be having a good time. VIP Groups are a valuable tool, where customers feel like they are a part of a community even online.

Small business owners have always had to be innovative. How a shop reaches its customers is a constantly evolving challenge. Social media has become the major communication tool for the shops, but even how they do that is something they have to consistently research and adapt to. Ten years ago, when Leslie and her daughter first opened Pink Chandelier, Facebook was pretty easy to navigate as a business. All they had to do was make a free post and all of their followers had an opportunity to see it in real-time. Now the person managing the social media has to navigate algorithms and pay to get the most views possible. No longer can they just make a post on Instagram. To stay relevant, the stores have to make Reels and update their Stories. Simply having a website isn’t enough, it needs to be an e-commerce site and be constantly updated with new items. All of this while still offering an excellent in-store experience. It requires constant learning and attention. These businesswomen have made the necessary adjustments while still offering excellent service.

“Where did you get your outfit?” Isn’t it more fun to share how your purchase was part of a local business’ story? Forbes Magazine puts it like this: “Boutiques fill a need Amazon doesn’t. Amazon is functional and useful when we know what we want. But there’s a difference between buying and shopping, and Amazon does not address the shopping experience.” To be a businesswoman in 2021 requires innovation, business savvy, a great staff, and no fear of a challenge. Check out the amazing boutiques Burleson has to offer, and experience what makes them special.