Stories from Downtown

May 14, 2020 – Sugaree’s, Funtique’s and The Write Impression

When you think ‘downtown, you immediately picture a small business is a business owner; a neighbor, a parent, someone who shops at the same grocery store as do you.

Three such small businesses, all located downtown, are neighbors on South Maple Street, facing the west side of our historic Courthouse Square, began their entrepreneur adventures just one year apart.

FunTiques, opening in 2002, The Write Impression in 2003, and Sugarees in 2004 represent three women. Three friends. Three unique niches, making their small businesses viable by filling a void in the market, these businesswomen have proven how to be successful over the years.


 

Passionate and goal oriented are common characteristics among successful entrepreneurs. Sugarees’ owner, Staci Higdon, shows these characteristics with her vision to start her vintage store specializing in timeless styles for women.

“I opened because there was not a business in town that offered items from local and independent artist and designers. I felt like there was a niche not being fulfilled. When I was a teenager my aunt said to me, ‘You’ve always danced to your own drummer.’ I saw fashion as a means of self-expression and was fascinated by how fashion defined women’s roles in society throughout the decades.”

Showing Staci’s determination to be successful she shares what the feel was like downtown when she opened in 2004. “There were mainly law offices and only a few independent small businesses. Anytime a building became available for rent the business owners would try to get another small business to rent it before a law office could get it; we were fiercely trying to grow our community.”

Many entrepreneurs may be self-reliant, but the most successful are also humble. These small business owners have an ability to keep their feet on the ground during even the most satisfying accomplishments, reach out for help when they need it, and be flexible during changing times.

Showing Staci’s determination to be successful she shares what the feel was like downtown when she opened in 2004. “There were mainly law offices and only a few independent small businesses. Anytime a building became available for rent the business owners would try to get another small business to rent it before a law office could get it; we were fiercely trying to grow our community.”

There was never a question about location for Sugarees. “Downtown is where small businesses have begun, it is where a small business offers its individuality.” Staci shares that our community has made downtown home. “There are centuries of history here and I feel honored that Sugaree’s will be a part of that story.”

Growing up watching her father run his own small business showed Staci the stress that is involved. “I saw that my father would have never done it differently given the chance. Maybe it’s genetic, but it definitely takes a special, stubborn person.” Her family has been her biggest encourager through the COVID pandemic. “My uncle calls me his hero. I hope I never disappoint him.”

Being a small business owner comes with its normal ups and downs; there are victories, setbacks, chaos, and calm waters. But during the recent months small business owners have had to be more resilient than ever before. “We are adapting daily. Exploring business strategies, always keeping health and safety a priority,” shares Staci on how she is dealing with the pandemic. “We are trying everything and seeing what sticks. There are different ways to be there for your clientele, explore and see what they respond to.”

From curbside pick-up, shipping, delivery, private and virtual appointments, Staci has even driven a carload of dresses to a new mother’s house. “It made her feel comfortable to not leave her home and risk exposing her newborn and I was grateful to be able to contribute.”

“Despite having no where to go women still need a new spring dress!” Sugarees’ customers returning to the now open store say they most want to see the new spring collection. When asked what products have flopped in the past Staci shares, “I have found that any style that does not make me swoon is not worth bringing in the shop.”

When considering what she has learned from the challenges over the past two months Staci said, “Part of the perspective I’ve gained during this pandemic led me to realize that I have been my biggest obstacle. My limitations have been from me feeling a little overwhelmed or spread thin. We truly can do anything we set our minds to.”

Sugarees has a new website where you can view Staci’s curated collection of timeless styles and the local independent artists she carries in her boutique.

Where did the name Sugarees come from? “It is the title of a blues song by Elizabeth Cotton. It’s a classic song that has been re-recorded and has inspired new versions of the song in a variety of genres, being passed down over the years. That is how I feel about fashion. It should be timeless, inspiring, and enduring.”

Staci has these words of encouragement to share about supporting downtown small businesses. “There has been the most amazing comradery, a spirit of togetherness. We (small business owners) put our hearts and souls into what we offer the community and you will never just be a customer to us.”

Come check out the newest Spring fashion at Sugarees’s Boutique at 122 South Maple Street. Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm.

www.sugareesboutique.com.

Barbara Wall, owner of FunTiques since October 2009, encompasses this characteristic. “I purchased FunTiques from Dawn Eaton and Carlene Hurst who opened the antique consignment store in 2002.

I love antiques and the people I have met while working in FunTiques since 2003. I have chosen to stay downtown because I love my business, customers, consigners, and employees. It is just a rewarding place to service the community and to listen to people and be able to help them through problems or daily challenges. Having a downtown business gives you that down-home feeling…a sense that you are cared about.”

FunTiques is a fun, unique shopping experience featuring ever-changing furniture and decorating accessories for the home or office. You will find an eclectic mix of trendy to traditional, classic, contemporary pieces. Whether antiques or flea market finds…all are on consignment. Barbara also carries Garden Décor…metal planters, topiaries, cloches, baskets, etageres, benches and garden art.

Barbara misses giving hugs to her customers, consigners, and employees most of all, but she has learned to deal with the changing times because of COVID-19 by offering curbside pick-up, home deliveries, and shopping online. Since re-opening her doors to the public customers are looking for creative ways to decorate their spaces, markdowns, and what is new since their last shopping trip. “Everyone looks for that one-of-a-kind treasure at FunTiques,” says Barbara.

“The support of local customers is vital to our success. Small business is at the heart of our community. FunTiques offers unique treasures that you can touch and feel. Generally, we know the history that goes along with each of our unique items.” Barbara is always looking for vintage pieces that have a story to tell.

There are lots of stories to hear when you walk into FunTiques and start talking to Barbara about the latest find she has in her store! “I received a call one day from a lady who lives in Chattanooga. She had been searching for two hand carved wood fern stands that her mother had sold in a yard sale when she was little. While browsing FunTiques website, to her surprise, there they were! She was so excited as she had been looking for those fern stands for years.”

“Downtown businesses are survivors,” says Barbara. When asked who her biggest cheerleader has been through this pandemic she shares, “Family, customers, consigners, and my employees!” Barbara’s self-determination and will power to keep on and make it has pulled her through these uncertain days, but most of all her trust in God is what she credits giving her the strength to keep going.

If you have an antique piece with a story to tell and want to consign with FunTiques, call Barbara at 615-867-2896. Looking for a unique piece that you can add to your home and continue the story telling while entertaining guests, stop by FunTiques Consignment at 118 South Maple Street, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10-5, with earlier hours on Saturday during the market on the square (June-September). Check out what’s new in the store at www.FunTiquesconsignment.com.

In the middle of this trio of shops is a quaint store started by Susan Grear called The Write Impression.

Beginning first out of her home in 2003 and moving to the square in 2005, Susan remembers, “Moving back with my family to Murfreesboro after having been away for 20 years, I knew that I wanted to work, but with a three-year-old, it wasn’t going to be in the corporate world travelling weekly.”

On the playground at Homer Pittard Campus School downtown, Susan and former business partner, Patti Hutchinson discovered their shared interest in stationery and invitations, and began a partnership and business in their homes.

Most small business owners are driven to succeed; they want to see their businesses grow, from startup to established business. Susan is one such driven woman and it has paid off with the success of The Write Impression over the past seventeen years.

“Having grown up in Murfreesboro, I knew that I wanted to be downtown, so it was exciting when Dawn Eaton, former owner of FunTiques, called about an available space next to her,” shares Susan. At the time, they felt Murfreesboro needed a retailer dedicated to stationery and invitations.

“When we grew up here, the Book Nook was where we all got our wedding invitations.” So, they decided to fill that need downtown.

“I can remember the excitement of product being delivered to the store, and our setting up the shop. It was so much fun and offered such a sense of accomplishment,” exclaims Susan.

Watching her own parents through the years run their business showed Susan their tremendous work ethic and commitment to the business and their customers. “That rubbed off on me, and my two sisters,” she shares.

“Downtown Murfreesboro has always been the ‘lifeblood’ of the community to me. Growing up, this is where we shopped…we had friends who worked at Brown’s Shoes and I can remember them delivering snow boots to our house, as it was unsafe to drive to town to get them (about eight blocks)!

We would go into City Café, Commerce Union Bank, Goldstein’s and other businesses, and people would know us by name. That kind of service in the community made a huge impression on me as a child!”

Small business owners are some of the most community minded individuals you will meet. Susan adds, “Shopping small means with your friends, your neighbors, your relatives – your community. We’ve supported one another, and its times like these that a small business needs the support of their community more than ever.”

Susan reminds us that all of the downtown businesses are viable and important to the community. “Our businesses are our livelihood, and the lifeblood of the downtown community. We depend on our community for support.”

Susan, who walks three to four miles a day to help with stress, is confident that all of the downtown businesses will survive this pandemic. She has thrived from the support of her team, son Mason, the vendors and wonderful customers. “They have all been great, very supportive and caring, and have checked on us from time to time. It’s always good to have strong relationships.”

During the quarantine, Susan still came to the store every day. “Since I have been going to the same place everyday for 15+ years, it was difficult to just stop coming. It was very quiet!” The Write Impression has taken this slower time to work on getting their website complete. Making progress towards completion it is something they have wanted to do for several years.

“Jenny has done a great job keeping our social media accounts active, which led to being able to sell product. We’ve offered personal shopping and complimentary delivery.”

With weddings and parties being postponed the most popular item being sold right now is their stylish face masks. Featuring unique gifts and customized needs for stationery and invitations, The Write Impression fills a niche like no one else in town.

“I feel that I have a viable business that provides a valuable service, and there is no where else I would want to locate my business other than downtown Murfreesboro,” exclaims Susan.

Susan’s advice during this pandemic is this, “I would like to see that everyone living in Murfreesboro would come visit downtown to explore what is here. Downtown Murfreesboro has a lot to offer! And to anyone who wants to be a part of the community, this is where you need to be. There is so much going on downtown! Great shops and great restaurants, all independently owned!”

Check out The Write Impression at www.papersandgifts.com or in Susan’s store Monday-Saturday 10:30-5:00.

Watch for future “Stories from Downtown” as Main Street highlights our diverse and unique small business owners that make up Murfreesboro’s Historic Downtown.