17 Small Businesses to Support in the South
A patchwork of influences and inspirations informs the South’s contemporary retail landscape. Among our favorite local shops: a lingerie boutique in Tennessee, an artist oasis in West Texas, and a charming home goods destination in New Orleans.
You can’t drive through downtown Naples without noticing Marissa Collections. For one, it’s huge, with a footprint spanning 10,000 square feet—and it’s painted an unmistakable shade of flamingo pink. Marissa Hartington began with a much smaller space back in 1975, and it quickly blossomed into one of Florida’s most well-known shops. (Hartington still runs the business with her husband, Burt, and their son, Jay.) With an edit that feels both curated and diverse—ranging from Oscar de la Renta and Dries Van Noten to contemporary labels like St. Roche, plus an epic jewelry gallery of treasures by Foundrae, Irene Neuwirth, and Fernando Jorge—Marissa Collections blends capital-F fashion with the relaxed vibe you can only find in the Sunshine State. —Emily Farra
White’s Mercantile is a woman-owned business founded by singer-songwriter, Holly Audrey Williams, who comes from a family of famous musicians: Her father is Hank Williams Jr. and her grandfather, Hank Williams. She launched her shop in 2013 and named the space after her grandparents, June and Warren White, who owned a mercantile in Mer Rouge, Louisiana, during the late 1800s. Today, White’s Mercantile boasts five locations across the southeast, but the Louisville location shares a special story. Amanda Eckmann is the cofounder of White’s Mercantile in Louisville, but originally she met Williams while working at her Nashville flagship store as the director of operations. It didn’t take long before Eckmann fell in love with the shop and partnered with Williams to open a location in Louisville after moving there with her husband. Eckmann found the perfect location in the hip, emerging, Nulu neighborhood, where the shop has become a destination for both local residents and visitors alike. White’s Mercantile is a fresh take on a modern general store—find everything from handcrafted leather goods to Goop products and home decor essentials. —Julie Tong
Mountain Brook, Alabama
At Maison Shoppe, founded by Pam Evans, classic and modern home decor intersect. Evans began her career as an elementary school teacher, but she always had a passion for antiquing. Evans’s impeccable taste is underscored by every object curated in her shop. There, you’ll find everything from antique French chairs to concrete pots sourced from Belgium and vintage framed artwork by Peter Keil. Unfortunately, there’s no e-commerce site for Maison Shoppe, which means you’ll have to visit in person or peruse her one-of-a-kind finds via Instagram, which can be purchased via DM or by phone. —J.T.
New Orleans, Louisiana
After graduating from Louisiana State University’s School of Design, Katie Logan Leblanc and Jensen Killen founded the interior design firm Logan Killen. Their tastes were so sought after that they also wound up opening the homeware boutique, Sunday Shop. The duo describes the store as “a holistic retail experience for all of the senses,” and others have described it as a shop they could happily live in. Filled with earthenware containing feathery floral stalks and hand-knotted rugs, the Sunday Shop sells R+DLab’s textured glassware, essential oils from Byredo, and prints from local artist Ansley Givhan. Located in New Orleans’s Lower Garden district, the Sunday Shop will grant your space that cozy Sunday-feeling, all week long. —Lilah Ramzi
Around the counter from the county courthouse in the charming town of Oxford, Mississippi, is Cicada—a local favorite founded by Anne-Marie Varnell in 1998 that’s filled with Ulla Johnson blouses, Ganni’s meadowy prints, and easy slides from Freedom Moses. The vibe is casual chic—a display table features Golden Goose sneakers encircling a potted orchid—and the shop itself isn’t lacking in Southern hospitality, with a staff always on hand to help. During the pandemic, Cicada launched a shoppable website to keep their customers happy and to reach others but there are even more goodies to be found in-store with a constantly rotating merchandise assortment. —L.R.
Charlotte, North Carolina
The capital of North Carolina is, of course, Raleigh but in nearby Charlotte, you’ll find another Capitol worth seeing. Opened in 1998 by Laura Vinroot Poole, the boutique is as pretty as the things it carries. Valentino’s feathered dresses, Rosie Assoulin’s color-splashed separates, and Irene Neuwirth’s botanical baubles are all part of the shop’s assortment of high-fashion pieces that don’t take themselves too seriously. Come for the Mark Cross box bags in a variety of peppy shades and stay for the ambiance—floral mural wallpaper and plush velvet lounge seating. A go-to in Charlotte, the store made such a mark that it had to open a second location in Los Angeles’s buzzy Brentwood Market. —L.R.
The White Pepper
Shopping vintage isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for Christina, the one-woman show behind the Etsy powered shop, the White Pepper, it certainly is (her latest selfie on Instagram shows her posing with a little bright yellow tea pot while thrifting at an antique mall). And what better way to shop for mid-century modern furniture, home decor treasures, and vintage collectibles when the curation (digging) is done for you? When she’s not scouring vintage malls or restoring pieces she’s collected, you can find Christina in her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. You can trust that you won’t find any item on display at the White Pepper unless it’s good enough to be out in her own home. You can expect anything from delicate paintings from the 1930s to a funky brass dolphin sculpture from the ’70s, both available now on the virtual storefront. —Madeline Fass
Little Rock, Arkansas
Barbara Jean was established in 1972 by Barbara Baber and Jean Chaffin, two friends who wanted women to have a nice place to shop in Little Rock. In short order, the specialty store became a resource for luxury clothing, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics, cultivating a selection of brands that now includes Chloé, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Oscar de la Renta. “I am fortunate to be the current owner of a store that’s been in business for over 45 years, and over that time we’ve been able to develop a clientele of some of the most fashionable women in the South!” says Tiffany Robinson, who began her Barbara Jean career as a marketing and promotions assistant in 2001. “I couldn’t imagine anything better!” —Marley Marius
Situated in Atlanta’s arty Little Five Points neighborhood, Wish is known and loved for its curated streetwear, including a sprawling assortment of sneakers. Among its best sellers are brands like Rhude, Purple Denim, and Gallery Department, according to CEO Julie Hogg: “Our customer loves stand-out pieces,” she says. “It is all about finding something unique and special that you may not see elsewhere.” Supporting Atlanta-area talent is also important to Wish—last summer, it hosted a pop-shop shop with Sprite called “The Give Back,” turning its floorspace over to neighborhood artists and designers. “L5P is a community of artists, local talent, and self-expression,” says Hogg, “and it always serves as an inspiration to our brand.” —M.M.
Founded in 2004 by designer and celebrity stylist Natalie Karyl, the Dollhouse Boutique has become an iconic staple for the fashionably inclined from coast to coast. The store has two locations: its hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, and a more recently opened outpost in Los Angeles. Featuring one-of-a-kind finds and bespoke creations from Karyl’s own label called Ragdolls Couture (whose latest collection is comprised of face masks and flouncy frocks made from upcycled denim), as well as a hand-picked selection of other local, independent designers, it’s the type of place where you’ll always find unique, imaginative pieces and walk out with something that no one else will have. —Madeline Swanson
When it comes to upscale boutiques in Oklahoma, Abersons in Tulsa tops the list. Located on South Peoria Avenue and 35th Street, the shop’s modest all-white exterior looks like something found in Beverly Hills—making it easy to assume Abersons is a newcomer to the Tulsa shopping scene. On the contrary, Abersons has a storied 40-year history, and with time comes knowledge: The boutique carries a smart edit of contemporary and designer clothing, shoes and accessories for both men and women with brands like The Row and Stella McCartney. With a serene, contemporary showroom that is just as alluring as the boutique’s exterior, don’t be surprised to find yourself spending plenty of time sifting through Abersons’s latest offerings. —Rachel Besser
If only every town had a shop like 20Twelve. Owner Chantal Johnson’s passion for curating the new and notable is evidenced by the shop’s clothing and accessories. Situated in Memphis’s Regalia Center, the store features au courant designs from notable names like JW Anderson, as well as an impressive offering of emerging designers like Nanushka. 20Twelve also boasts a selection of fine skin care and fragrance products, and coffee table books from Taschen and Assouline. Whether you’re a local, or just visiting Memphis, the great news is that with 20Twelve’s online store, you can still shop the store’s curated offerings long after you’ve departed the state of Tennessee. —R.B.
Darlin’, a lingerie boutique in Tennessee, opened three years ago with the intention of bringing beautiful, size-inclusive lingerie to the Nashville area. “Shopping online can be difficult, as bra sizes vary based on where they’re manufactured. Being able to touch and feel the product is a huge part of the buying experience—not all lace was created equal,” founder Katie McGinnis tells Vogue. Located in a historic building in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood of Nashville, Darlin’ is a bit of a speakeasy experience. The store is tucked away in an alley, marked by a neon sign. Head into Darlin’ for comfortable, modern, and romantic pieces by brands that prioritize style, size inclusivity, and responsible practices. —R.B.
Charleston, South Carolina
Robben Richards opened the eco-conscious boutique Worthwhile with her father in 1993. After 28 years in business, the Charleston shop has evolved to feature artisanal collections from the likes of Molly Goddard and Comme des Garçons. Richards and her small, thoughtful buying team, all of whom travel to Paris together during fashion month, also stocks Worthwhile with modern, minimalist handcrafted jewelry as well as beauty items from Astier de Villatte and Maison Marie Louie. On top of this outpost’s impressive curation of products, the beautifully appointed space is something to admire in and of itself: Worthwhile is located inside the old 19th-century McIntosh Seed House on the city’s iconic King Street. —Brooke Bobb
Founded in 1979 by Katy and Matt Culmo, ByGeorge is a high-fashion institution in Austin, Texas, currently owned by entrepreneur Larry McGuire. With an eye for what Jil Sander, Loewe, and The Row pieces will best appeal to their southern clientele, ByGeorge offers the best of the best of womenswear, menswear, and homewares. A beauty edit will launch this spring, with brands hand-selected by the store’s president Molly Nutter and in-house curator and artist, Erin Lee Smith. ByGeorge has two locations. The flagship in Clarksville focuses on men’s and women’s designer and contemporary brands, while the second location in South Congress houses a more relaxed selection of young designers, including Jacquemus and Ganni. Amid the Dries Van Noten and Brunello Cuccinelli, there’s also a selection of cowboy boots by Dallas designer Miron Crosby and vintage vinyl firmly cements ByGeorge in the great state of Texas. —Sarah Spellings
In a town of artistic oases in the middle of West Texas, Wrong Marfa stands out from the pack with its hot pink floors, rotating exhibition space, and irreverent, curated edit of artist’s wares. Wrong lives inside of the old building for the Big Bend Sentinel, a local newspaper. Formerly, it was located inside of a church, with both spots lending the space an appropriately off-beat vibe. Owners Buck Johnston and Camp Bosworth stock the boutique with pieces from their community of artists. Whether you’re looking for a special leather football or a wooden sculpture of a Dairy Queen pecan sundae (hand carved by Bosworth himself), there’s plenty of whimsical finds at Wrong. —S.S.
The Printable Concept
Like many entrepreneurial pursuits, the Printable Concept originated in 2016 when founder Julie Groleau wanted to solve a problem. Her dilemma? She could not find stylish, affordable artwork to decorate her apartment with. “I found myself wishing I could simply download the perfect piece of art online,” Grolueau tells Vogue. Then it clicked. She already had a graphic design background, so she decided to create her own modernist, mid-century wall art. Grolueau saw an opportunity to solve an issue that, perhaps, many others have encountered as well. She set up shop on Etsy and launched initially with only digital downloads, but soon expanded to printed and framed options. Despite the stresses the pandemic has had on small businesses last year, Groleau has found solace in being able to reach Etsy customers “everywhere in the world.” —J.T.
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