Big Small-Town Dreams Can Come True: Honey Hush Boutique
The busy 2015 holiday season was an unusually anxious time for Shelly Evans and her daughter Lacey. Months before, they’d returned to their hometown of Bogata in Texas’ Red River country. Although the family had purchased some acreage located just outside of city limits, they’d also acquired an old brick building on Bogata’s Main Street.
The big question facing Shelly and Lacey that summer was what to do with that cavernous space. Shelly favored opening an antique store. Lacey, on the other hand, leaned in the direction of a boutique featuring all things Southern and stylish, from women’s apparel, shoes, and jewelry to home décor items.
Lacey persisted, and her pitch eventually won her mom’s backing. Months of work followed as mother and daughter gradually converted what was once a bank into a retail space. Meanwhile, to help cover the cost of renovations, Shelly sold custom T-shirts online. Finally, the day of Honey Hush Boutique’s grand opening arrived — Friday, November 27, 2015, a.k.a. Black Friday, perhaps the most important date on any retail merchant’s calendar.
Understandably, both Shelly and Lacey felt more than a little apprehensive that morning. At best, they hoped they might make $1,000 on their first day in business. But customer demand for the merchandise they’d painstakingly curated exceeded their wildest expectations. Honey Hush Boutique closed $4,000 in sales. And those sales kept up their brisk pace through Christmas and into the new year.
Shelly took justifiable pride in what she and her daughter had accomplished. “Our grand opening provided so much validation that we had made the right decision to come home to little Bogata and start our own business here,” she explains. “I wanted to create a special place, one that’s as much a community as a shop. A place not only for my customers but also for my employees — a place that helps them support their families.”
Within six months, Honey Hush Boutique was contributing mightily to the local economy. Shelly had both hired additional staff and opened an online storefront to cater to a larger customer base. Foot traffic to the store — not to mention neighboring shops — became heavier and heavier with each passing month. Shelly had achieved one goal: she was now her own boss. Moreover, she seemed well on her way to achieving another: revitalizing Bogata’s downtown.
Fast-forward to early 2020. With stunning suddenness, the COVID-19 pandemic turned Shelly’s entrepreneurial dreams into a mad scramble for mere survival. Here’s how she describes Honey Hush’s March 2020. “We were down to my manager and myself due to one employee leaving and one having to go into quarantine. Sales plummeted. We got creative and started using Facebook Live to showcase our latest arrivals. We did this every afternoon. Before the pandemic, we’d only been doing it every two or three months. Behind the scenes, we were asking every supplier out there about getting masks. We got lucky that one came through when those items were nearly impossible to get. We then found some cool headbands to pair with those masks and started sewing Honey Hush buttons on them. I hoped they’d be popular, but they completely took off. To be honest, without that and curbside pickup, I don’t know if we would have made it to April.”
Early April is also when Shelly first learned of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). She was meeting with some of the area’s other business people when the topic of conversation shifted to the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and its more than $370 billion in funding for small businesses. Shelly immediately reached out to Linda Brown at Guaranty Bank & Trust’s Bogata location to ask her what she knew about the CARES Act and the PPP.
Linda responded right away. She laid out the PPP loan application process step-by-step and shared with Shelly the long list of required documents she would need to send to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to qualify. She even helped Shelly track down and organize those documents.
Within 10 days, Honey Hush Boutique received $13,500 in financial assistance via the PPP. Looking back on the whirlwind of activity that was the first week of April 2020, Shelly praises Linda’s composure and professionalism. “She kept the lines of communication open the entire time. She was always there to answer my questions and get me closer to the finish line. After I submitted, she kept me constantly informed on the progress of my application.”
Since then, business has steadily improved — so much so that Honey Hush is now doing better than ever. Shelly saw her April 2020 sales surge by 65 percent compared to April 2019. July was an even better month, with Honey Hush besting last year’s revenue over those long, hot 31 days by a whopping 138 percent.
These figures become even more impressive when you consider that most of those sales were pickup or curbside service only. Shelly would gladly have more people browsing her racks and shelves, but, due to safety concerns, she chose to admit only two in-store visitors at a time. “We plan to continue this for a couple more weeks — at least — due to the outbreaks elsewhere in the county,” she adds. “But I hope other small business owners are encouraged by our success. I want them to be hopeful that their business can flourish during this time.”
Whatever the future may hold for Shelly and her family, she knows she will continue to cultivate a warm, welcoming, charming small-town atmosphere for those who walk through Honey Hush Boutique’s front door. She’ll also keep serving as an ambassador for her hometown, both through Honey Hush’s wholesale business and her efforts to register Bogata’s Main Street as a Historic District with the Texas Historical Commission. And she’ll do so with the comfort of knowing that Guaranty Bank & Trust will be at her side to assist and offer support whenever she needs it.
“We love and know everyone who works at Guaranty’s Bogata location, and that makes a huge difference, especially when you have to spend so much time on the road traveling to markets the way I do,” Shelly says. “No matter where I am or what the need may be, all I have to do is call Guaranty. Any issue I have, they resolve it promptly. There’s no dollar value you can put on that. That level of service is truly priceless.”
To get a taste of Honey Hush Boutique’s southern charm, visit their website, www.honeyhushstore.com, or check in with them at their very active Facebook page.
At Guaranty Bank & Trust, we’re proud to be one of the oldest community banks in the Lone Star State. Like Shelly and entrepreneurs like her, we understand the vital role small businesses play in Texas’ thriving economy. Whether you’re interested in striking out on your own or looking to command more market share, we invite you to get to know your local Guaranty Bank & Trust banker. Call our Custom Care Center at (888) 572-9881 or book a video appointment to talk to one today.