This September, Vesta’s Boutique celebrates its 20th birthday (and a little bird told us there will definitely be a birthday party, so keep your ears open for that). Since it first opened in Little Rock two decades ago, Vesta’s has expanded to three locations around Arkansas: Little Rock, most recently Conway, and our own Northwest Arkansas location in Rogers.
And Rogers is oh so lucky to have the spunk and sass of the brainchild of Melissa Tanner (though when credited with being the brains behind Vesta’s, she jokes, “Well I don’t know if I’m the brains or the idiot, but here we are. I stirred up the trouble!”).
Even while keeping tabs on a trunk show and helping customers find the perfect new look, Melissa squeezed in a few minutes to chat with us about Vesta’s story, some lessons she’s learned, and a surprise celebrity appearance!
How did Vesta’s come about?
“My son had gone to college and my daughter was a junior in high school. I was one of those moms that had been involved in everything, all the time and I thought, I gotta find something else to do or I’m going to drive my kids nuts because I’m going to be at their college trying to be a home room mom there.
I’d always kind of wanted to do something like this because we traveled a lot and I always saw cute things other places. And so we gave it a whirl and it just grew from there!”
So did you have a background in business?
“No, not at all. I’m a nurse by profession. I delivered babies for years. So an entirely different field.”
How was that transition from being a nurse to a boutique owner?
“A lot more fun. Yes, it was hard, too. I made a lot of stupid mistakes at first, because you don’t understand all of what’s involved with a retail store. But it’s a learning experience every day, even now.”
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
“Changing. You have to be willing to change. When I started out, I actually started out selling furniture, home furnishings, linens, gifts and jewelry. And bedding was a big thing that we used to do, because a lot of places did not selling that. That’s where the name came from, too, because Vesta was the Greek goddess for the home and hearth.
Now we do women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, stuff like that. As we have evolved, we’ve been able to see what kind of inventory we needed to get rid of and what needed to be enlarged. It’s changing all the time. Retail changes every day and you have to be aware of what products are out there and what’s needed.”
How do you make sure you’re stay plugged into the communities?
“It can definitely be hard, but I have the most wonderful people that work in all of the stores. And honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the kind of customers we attract. We’ve got the best customers, and they want us to be involved in things that they do. It’s a give and take.”
What’s one thing you wish people knew about Running a boutique?
“Hmm, that’s a tough one. The only thing that I can think of is that people sometimes say of business owners, ‘Oh you have your own business, you must be wealthy and you get to take off whenever you want to.’
“That’s so far from the truth. As a business owner, you have to work your a** off ten times harder and you don’t have as much time off. It is hard work. It’s not a glamorous job.”
“But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s so worth it. You make so many friends. From customers and vendors, things like that. They become people that are in your life forever and that’s really a very special part of the job.”
What has been your most memorable day at the shop?
“Oh my gosh. This is really kind of funny. We had opened a store in Downtown Little Rock in the River Market when they were trying to redo that, and Mary Steenburgen came in bought like ten thousand dollars worth of furniture. I will never forget that day because I hadn’t been open that long.”
Wow, that’s got to be a great confidence booster!
“No kidding. It was really quite spectacular!”
Somehow, “spectacular” still feels like an understatement. If Mary trusts Melissa’s taste + has done her fair share to support local NWA businesses, take that page out of our girl Mary’s book and shop local, too! We’ve made it a BREEZE to find local shops + services around town, just check out Towny app here (free for you).