When COVID-19 closed the church preschool where Jennifer Berrier and Angie Hodges had worked together for the past five years, they decided to pursue another dream for employment.
The friends opened Sweet Southern Sass women’s clothing boutique in Lexington on Sept. 25 inside Evenbrooke, located at 15 Murphy Drive in the Center 64 West shopping center.
“We are a shop within a shop,” said Berrier, who has since been able to return part-time to teaching preschool. “The best thing is if you are coming to Sweet Southern Sass, you might see something else you want. There are 38 vendors here.”
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Most of the vendors at Evenbrooke sell home decor, repurposed furniture, antiques, collectibles, homemade signs, produce, flowers and art. However, there is no other vendor doing what Berrier and Hodges are doing. Sweet Southern Sass is the only store selling new women’s clothing. In addition, most of the vendors are not onsite helping customers and instead allow Evenbrooke owner Brad McCullough and manager Michael Ayers to handle their booths’ business. But Sweet Southern Sass owners are typically at their boutique each evening after 3 pm and all day on Saturdays.
“For two years, we talked about opening a clothing boutique,” Hodges said, “but we never had the time. When COVID-19 happened, we said, ‘Let’s go for it.'”
As part of the newly unemployed sector in March, the duo now had the time to plan and open a business, but there was another problem — COVID-19’s high-density gathering restrictions meant there were no trade shows boutique owners typically attend to view, touch and try on the hottest clothing and accessory trends.
“We spent lots of hours on the computer. We did lots of research and lots of praying,” Berrier said.
The main goal with opening a women’s boutique, they said, was to offer high quality, trendy clothing and accessories while still keeping the cost affordable. Berrier and Hodges have worked at clothing retail stores before and added that they have witnessed sticker shock.
One of the ways they can keep prices low is forgoing opening a stand-alone store with lease and rent payments attached along with utility bills. Instead, they pay a monthly rental fee at Evenbrooke. Also, the Evenbrooke owners took their idea for their booth design and built it for them. The result is a 360-square-foot store area that has the feel of a separate store because of the partial walls. The end result is a rustic, barn-like structure with winding vines along the top of the walls.
The store carries Kan Can and Cello jeans and shirts, as well as dresses, fleece coats and more by Chris & Carol, Celeste. American Bazi and POL. The boutique also has a selection of jewelry, scarves, dusters, hats, weekender bags, wristlets and even a line of snacks by Candy Club. Sizes for clothing range from extra small to 3X. They will soon add Bridgewater candles for the holidays.
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For announcements about new events and inventory, follow Sweet Southern Sass on Facebook and Instagram. One announcement to look for is the launch of their website, so you can purchase clothing and other items online.
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