Dream of owning a downtown boutique? You might be about to read about the easiest opportunity you’ll likely ever have. It was just a few days shy of a year ago that I met Margaret Stanley, who had just opened Bootleg Betty the week before. She’d just arrived in Knoxville two months earlier, fallen in love with the 100 block of Gay Street and opened the first retail establishment of her career. An unlikely transplant from the non-profit world, she excitedly told me about the new venture.
Over the next year, the business grew, word spread and the retail store edged toward profitability. Since the inventory is sold on consignment, she kept her costs and financial investment low, while investing enormous human capital. It worked. Her inventory grew, her word-of-mouth grew, she found advertising that worked and by early this year she hired two workers to help her keep up.
But then an opportunity presented itself that she found hard to turn down. In April she accepted the position of Executive Director of the Autism Society of East Tennessee. Her background was in the non-profit world, as she had worked for six years with the Girl Scouts in Denver, ending that time as the Chief Strategy Officer. She felt her skills and talents could really be an asset to the local group and they agreed.
What followed was a period of soul-searching for both she and her husband. They ultimately concluded that each working full-time jobs and owning a business on the side would likely be very difficult given that they are ready to slow down, build roots and a community of friends and potentially have a family in the not-too-distant future.
So the decision was made to disengage from the business, but Margaret had a hard time imagining simply closing the doors. She has a month-to-month lease, so she wouldn’t loose money to simply close the doors, but she said one of the most satisfying parts of the last twelve months has been those moments when she looks around the store and realizes, “I’ve created a lot of value here.”
She means, for example, the value she’s delivered to customers who have found wedding dresses for half what they would have had to pay for a new dress. She also referenced giving the brides-to-be a comfortable shopping experience and said that every single bride has been great to work with. She laughed and acknowledged that sounds impossible, but insisted it’s true. It’s been very fulfilling.
I asked what she had learned from the year and she indicated we would need a lot more than one cup of coffee to cover the topic. She said both she and her husband feel learned as much but, “spent a fraction of what people spend on an MBA.” She says she’s learned a lot about taxes saying, “every time you think you have them covered, there are more.” She also said it’s been a great way to learn about the city, which she feels is very warm and welcoming. She particularly mentioned her neighbors on the block who have been “very supportive.” Further, the experience has helped her clarify her priorities and, of course, she’s learned a lot about wedding dresses.
Her biggest advice to new business owners is to carry as little debt as possible. She noted that creating and growing your own business is very stressful simply because you care about succeeding. The added stress of carry a large debt, she feels, would make it much, much worse. Beyond that, she says if you have a dream to own a business, get out and do it, clearly feeling it’s a great experience to have no matter what happens.
So, in an effort to keep the business alive and offer someone an easier chance to enter the world of retail, she’s offering the business at auction. Follow that link for the details and make an offer. It’s that simple. And what will you get for your minimal investment? While the inventory is on consignment, you will get a fully stocked store with wedding dresses, boots, jewelry, formal wear, hand-crafted wood art and more.
The relationships with the vendors are established, the lease is ready for transfer and the business has established a reputation with over 1300 fans on FB. The store also has an excellent reputation (all five star ratings on social media) and it doesn’t have any competition in the year-round consignment wedding dress business in the city.
It’s such a good deal that it seems, to me, likely someone will give it a go. It’s the third business located at 122 S. Gay Street since I started this website and I’d like to think the block has come a long way in that time. Restaurants such as Cru Bistro and Knox Mason are long-term successes and Holly’s 135 seems to be off to a great start. The Village across the street is doing very well and Patricia Nash, Nouveau Classics and James Freeman Interiors seem to be doing well. It’s the most momentum the block has had at least since the construction several years back.
This past Friday Margaret began the process of getting the word out to potential buyers and she’s had some early interest. If you think this opportunity might be for you, you must act quickly. She will only accept offers through July 15 – that would be next week. She plans to close as quickly as possible after that. If you are interested and haven’t already, you best click the link above. And you might want to do it pretty quickly.