The Vinings, Ga. boutique reels ‘em in with hard-to-find lines from L.A. and beyond.
This story first appeared in the October 2, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Looking more Miami than suburban Atlanta, Nekos Boutique in Vinings, an affluent neighborhood around 30 miles north of Atlanta, contrasts with the surrounding colonial architecture and rolling country fences.
Owner Sandra Jones said the 1,600-square-foot store’s chrome fixtures, concrete floors and white walls do have a South Beach feel, complete with palm tree in the window. She softens these stark qualities with a striking red wall, fresh-cut flowers and a yellow linen couch. The store’s name is a combination of her daughter’s name, Nicole, and a friend’s daughter’s name, Meko.
The laid-back feeling transfers to the merchandise, a solid mix of casual, hip lines including Poleci, Filippa, Ya-Ya and William B. With a price range of $28 for a T-shirt by Juicy Couture to $300 for a pair of Alvin Valley pants, Jones says sales at the 4-month-old store are right on target, at $30,000 per month. The only slight dip occurred this summer when customers took extended vacations.
“But they call from their beach houses requesting shipments of clothes, so it hasn’t been that terrible,” she said. Nekos’ customers, which primarily consist of fashion-conscious mothers and daughters, also appreciate denim from Rock & Republic, Earl Jean and Ona Saez; dresses that have a cotton tank top, a silk skirt attached with a vintage-fabric waistband from Kaplan and denim clothes and accessories with hardware and leather detailing from Catch a Fire, a hot line designed by Cedella Marley, daughter of reggae star Bob Marley.
“I like to introduce lines out here, like Black Halo, a California-based brand of pants and dresses with leather embellishment and brass buckles. Customers are responding to the variety,” said Jones.
She fosters closer relationships with clients through her accessories business. In addition to carrying the latest trends — chunky coral, turquoise and shell jewelry — Jones invites select students from The Lovett School, a tony private school, to showcase their jewelry designs on a consignment basis. She has worked with three girls so far, whose collections were primarily composed of necklaces made from semiprecious stones and beads strung on sterling silver chains intertwined with silk cording. (Typically, they split profits fifty-fifty). She also offers lingerie from On Gossamer, Gen X and LoveTanJane.
Other bestsellers are Lily Scott’s handbeaded handbags, Kiki Pearl’s handcrafted leather bags with coral and turquoise embellishment and Vic & Jane’s belts adorned with shells and coconut buttons. The belts have done so well that she is adding the line’s leather handbags with turquoise detail for fall.
Opening her own boutique has kept Jones out of the mall, a perk she and especially her husband are grateful for.
“I was a total shopaholic, but now I get my fix through buying for the store,” she said.
To avoid getting stagnate, Jones mixes up markets, hitting all the majors and those in-between, from Texas to Atlanta to Miami. She plans to start buying in Europe soon. Her inventory and marketing techniques, which include “Margarita Saturdays,” a monthly event featuring music, food, drinks and 40 percent discounts on an entire highlighted collection, have been such a success that a second location is slated to open in Virginia-Highlands next year.
But the former Neiman Marcus salesperson confesses she’d be happy with success on a much smaller scale.
“Even if only one customer came in, I’d still be living my dream,” she said.