Main and Mulberry: Grindstone – w/ Stephanie Harley

This locally owned clothing store’s customer service is “second to none!” Harley Rae Boutique in Madison, Mississippi is a great place to shop for your favorite boutique lines. A young entrepreneur, hear from the owner of Harley Rae Boutique, Stephanie Harley, as she discusses balancing different responsibilities and managing a dream come true: Harley Rae Boutique!


Anna: Hello and welcome to Main and Mulberry: Grindstone. I’m your host, Anna Bell. Grindstone is a podcast all about small businesses, and today I’m talking with Stephanie Harley, owner of Harley Rae Boutique in Madison, Mississippi. Stephanie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Stephanie: Thank you for having me! I’m excited.

Anna: Absolutely! We’re excited to learn more about Harley Rae boutique. Let’s start with a quick profile of your boutique. Can you tell our viewers, you know, some background on how the idea of Harley Rae Boutique first came about and when you first opened your doors?

Stephanie: Okay! Well, we first opened… December of 2017, and I had been a vendor inside of a store in Madison where I sold clothing. And I started selling clothing because I love clothing and I wanted to be able to get myself clothing and then sell the rest and make a profit off of it. So, that store ended up closing and they were going to close in December, 2017. So, when I found that out and around October of ‘17, I was like, “I gotta keep this going.” So, I wanted to get my own place, and what a lot of people don’t know about me is I’m also a full-time paralegal at a law firm. So, I do that. I love my job as a paralegal, so I didn’t want to give that up. So, I hired a manager to manage my store and I go after work on the weekends and, you know, so I’m busy all the time, but that’s how it came about. I didn’t want to stop selling clothes, and so I just decided to open my own up.

Anna: How cool is that? Oh, I love hearing that story and yes, you must be very busy juggling a lot these days.

Stephanie: Yes! And two teenage girls. So…

Anna: Then you really do have your hands full, and I bet they’re happy that their closets are full with some pretty clothing.

Stephanie: Definitely!

Anna: Stephanie, paint that picture for us of what all we can experience, as a first time visitor, when we walk through your doors at Harley Rae boutique in Madison, Mississippi. What’s it like when we come in the door?

Stephanies: Well, we pride ourselves on customer service. So ,when you walk in the door, you’re immediately going to get a, “hey, how are you doing?” And then following that, you’re going to get, “let me know if I can help me find anything.” We don’t want to feel like, you know, a big chain store. We want people to feel at home when they come in. Every room has a big colorful home-style rug in it, and so you kind of just feel like you’re at home when you’re there and comfortable that you can shop and just relax. And so, we try to make everybody feel comfortable, everybody feel at home when they come in, and our customer service is second to none, if I do say so myself. My girls know that that’s what we expect, and when I’m there as well, we just try to make everybody, from the time they walk in the door until they leave, feel like home. We also check on them throughout the store, if they need us to take their items and set them at the front, so they’re not carrying things around, we do that as well. So, we just want everybody to feel at home and know that that person, that one person matters when they walk into the store, and that’s just part of what we do.

Anna: Absolutely! Kind of tell us what we can expect to see when we come in the store, as far as apparel goes, what all do you have in store?

Stephanie: Okay! So, we have, we sell boutique line, and we have sizes small all the way to three x, which is kind of rare around here. You don’t find a lot of boutiques that have all the way up to three x. And so, our curvy ladies appreciate that. And so, yeah, we offer that, we have jewelry, we have shoes, we have gift items such as candles, and we have a lot of Mississippi-made items as well. So, that’s one of the things that we definitely pride ourselves on, is having locally made items.

Anna: Wow! So, that’s really neat. I’d like to talk about that for a minute. Now, how do you get in touch with those vendors, and is the store set up in that same similar fashion as you were talking about earlier with vendors? Or is it, are you just hosting, you know, some of those products in the store?

Stephanie: No, I do have vendors, and a lot of my, I have like a jewelry vendor. She makes all of her own jewelry. I have a candle vendor who pours her own candles right here in Madison, Mississippi. That’s something we love because we’re supporting local people. We have local honey, we have locally made cheese straws. So, we have a lot of local stuff and we love to support our locals. And also, if we don’t have that vendor in our store, I try to buy it from locals as well for my inventory.

Anna: Oh, that’s great! That’s really good to hear it. It sounds like you can get us all dressed up for a special occasion, if we come in and visit with you.

Stephanie: Absolutely! We have everything from shorts all the way to dresses and nice dresses, so…

Anna: Oh, that’s great! Okay, so kind of tell us, if you can, what is the coolest or most unique aspect of the business, in your opinion?

Stephanie: I think our most unique is probably the fact that we do have vendors in the store. So, we have a little taste from all the vendors. All of my vendors are different people, so they have different tastes, like in clothing or shoes. So, you can come in and expect to find something from every style, all the way to, you know, something you may not like or something you may like, from teenager to an elderly person. So, I think that’s our most unique thing, is that we have such a variance of style and products.

Anna: Oh, that’s so great. Yeah, absolutely, whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, it sounds [inaudible].

Stephanie: Absolutely! We have a lot of people that come in and shop for other people but then buy themselves something as well.

Anna: Oh, yeah! You can’t help it. You see something pretty and you got to have it, right?

Stephanie: That’s right! Exactly.

Anna: Can you give us kind of a general price range of what we can expect when we come and visit, for your apparel?

Stephanie: Yes! Our apparel, we don’t have anything really over $45, for the most part. We have a few specific items that may come from a more pricier vendor, but most of our items are $45 and under. So, you can really get good deals, and a majority of our items are around $30 to $35, for clothing.

Anna: That’s wonderful! Thanks for that profile. Now, Stephanie, were you ever a small business owner before? I know you talked a little bit about your paralegal business. How did you make that decision though, to start your own women’s clothing boutique? Was that easy for you to just keep with the clothing, even though you were a vendor, or what was that a dream come true? Kind of tell us about that.

Stephanie: I have always wanted to own my own store. And so, over the years, I’ve done many a little ventures. You know, I had a candle company that I did out of my house and I would sell candles and try to sell them to the stores and things like that. Did that for a little while. And then, when I first started selling clothes, I was selling it just online and out of my house. So, I would set up like little clothing parties for people to come shop and do all that before I knew about the vendor’s store. And so, then when I got into the vendor store, the passion just kept growing, and I actually started working at the vendor store on weekends. So, when I would do that, I learned more about the business of doing it than just selling clothes or having my clothes there and being sold. So, yes, it was… but I’ve always wanted my own store. So, it was definitely a dream come true, but I couldn’t quit my paralegal job because I loved that job too.

Anna: It sounds like you’ve got a real entrepreneurial spirit about you.

Stephanie: Definitely! I don’t like sitting still.

Anna: I love that. What is the main goal you have for your customers to feel when they come and shop with you at Harley Rae Boutique?

Stephanie: Our main thing is, we want them to feel at home. Like, they can come in, they can talk to us, they can ask us questions about the product, and we can be knowledgeable enough to let them tell them or to point them in the right direction. If we don’t have something, we’re more than happy to point them in the direction of another local business that may have that same product. We support all of our local businesses around us. We have one right next door to us that we support. Well, two actually, both on both sides of us are local businesses. We love supporting local and we want them to, we want them to feel that, just know that we care about them as a person, not just as a shopper.

Anna: Right! Oh, absolutely. Tell us too about your location, where you are in Madison, and what’s the best way for customers to kind of get in contact with you. Are you active on your social media? Kind of give us a rundown of those things.

Stephanie: We are in Madison, Mississippi. Our address is 967 Madison Avenue. We are right off of Highway 51 in Madison, so it’s very easy to get to, and we are very active on social media, on our Facebook page, which is Hardly Rae Boutique. So, anybody can find us there and inbox us. We check it all the time. I mean, my phone’s always sitting right next to me, so I’m usually responding within 15 minutes. So, that’s the easiest way to get in touch with us, and we’re working on building an app right now as well.

Anna: That’s exciting! More news to come. That’s good. Well, thank you for that background. We love to hear stories of how small businesses get started and are thriving. So, Stephanie, thank you so much for your time and your insight today.

Stephanie: Thank you so much.

Anna: Yeah! Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.

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