If your store is successful and it’s time to open a second one, what could be handier than taking the space next door?
Connie Schleuning did exactly that this spring, when she opened Mercí Boutique in Chenoweth Square, on the west side of her Fleur de Lis store.
“The same people are working at both places now, sharing responsibility, so it’s manageable,” she said. “We thought about cutting a hole through the wall to connect the stores – maybe someday.”
Connie, who has a degree in business marketing, opened Fleur de Lis 12 years ago to sell home interior items, accessories and gifts. The store has done interior design work in a number of houses.
“I just liked the way ‘Fleur de Lis’ sounded,” she said. “My husband, Bill, thought it was a terrible name, because nobody knew what it was or how to say it. He didn’t realize that it’s the symbol of Louisville – to be honest, neither did I. That became a joke between us.”
The opportunity to create Mercí came when the wine store beside Fleur de Lis closed. Mercí opened about two months ago, following hands-on redecorating by Fleur de Lis staff, friends and relatives. The close-knit staff comprises Connie; her sister, Shorty Martin; Mary Beth Hughes and Linda Vittitow, both of whom were Connie’s classmates at Jeffersonville High School; and Leaha Shaughnessy, Linda’s neice.
“The name ‘Mercí’ just seemed to go with ‘Fleur de Lis’,” Connie said. “We decided that it should be a clothing store, for no particular reason other than the fact that we love pretty clothes. All Louisville women do.”
Connie and her staff travel to market shows in New York and Atlanta for the latest and best fashions. Now that the more formal dresses of Derby season have gone, they have been savoring summer styles from designers such as Nanette Lepore, Pink Tartan, and Britt Ryan.
“We like colors, so we’ve put an emphasis on brightness. Even our white and black clothes look bright,” she said. “I used to go around in a golf shirt, but now I’m stepping out a little.”
Mercí’s goals include carrying a wide range of sizes – from 0 to 14, although not in every item – and clothing that appeals to more than one generation. As the youngest member of the buying team, Leaha helps bring in the “younger taste level.”
“We also have a good range of shoppers: We sold Derby dresses to girls going to their high school dances, but also to an 80-year-old lady,” she said. “Sometimes, there is crossover for the same item.”
Mercí carries jewelry, including handmade selections by local designers W&M Custom Jewelry, and Coquettish Designs. At present, the only footwear is fancy flip-flops, which also have been sold at Fleur de Lis. Reading glasses by Eyebobs are on display as well.
“People see these pretty things and think that hanging them up is all there is to do, but we have to open all the boxes and break them down,” Connie said. “That kind of thing takes a lot of effort and time. My husband is a tremendous help and so understanding. He pitches in a lot.”
The payoff for that hard work is the tide of customers that continues to roll in. Some shoppers are long-time Fleur de Lis patrons, while others are new to both stores.
“There’s a lot of value in being next door to The Cheddar Box, too, and across from Paul’s Fruit Market, because everyone in St. Matthews goes to them,” she said. “The greatest compliment we’ve gotten came from Nancy (Tarrant) at The Cheddar Box – she said, ‘I’m thankful to be located next to Mercí, because we’re now getting people we’ve never seen.’ ”
Mercí Boutique, 3911 Chenoweth Square, is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 502.893.4252.
Category: Business Profile