TUSCUMBIA / BIRMINGHAM – What started as two young girls’ dream is now the retail flagship store in downtown Tuscumbia.
When they were children, first cousins Courtney Thompson and Meagan Richardson operated a pretend store. “We always wanted a store,” said Thompson. “It has always been our dream. Now, it is a reality.”
The cousins named their reality after their great-grandmother, Nellie Mae Jeffreys. Nellie Mae Boutique, which opened in 2012, now serves more than 9,000 customers a month, in store and online. They ship all over the United States and even internationally from their 10,000-square-foot warehouse, Thompson said.
Today at Alabama Retail Day in Birmingham, Nellie Mae Boutique was recognized as the Alabama Retailer of the Year Customers’ Choice Award winner. Among the 49 Alabama Retailer of the Year entries, the women’s clothing and accessory store garnered the most votes between June 28 and July 12 in a Facebook contest. The store received 3,199 of the 16,849 votes cast. The store’s popularity among its customers is clear. Nellie Mae Boutique has 119,000 Facebook likes, more than 33,000 Instagram followers and 1,000 Twitter followers. In the contest, customers referred to Thompson and Richardson as “inspirational young entrepreneurs” and “just good people.” One customer said, “literally half of my wardrobe is from” Nellie Mae, while another described the store as “a one-stop shop for most age groups.” Nellie Mae has an email list of 21,000 customers, who get an email daily from the store.
Thompson and Richardson first began their adult career selling and flipping furniture in a 10×10 booth. Four months into their venture, their current retail space on Main Street in downtown Tuscumbia became available for rent. “We couldn’t afford it,” said Thompson, “but we just decided to take a leap, and we did.”
Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood, who nominated Nellie Mae Boutique as a Retailer of the Year, said the store is “the flagship to the retail industry here in our downtown.” He described the owners as creative people who adapt easily to change. “The changes they make here, they make before the crowd does,” he said. Thompson agreed, “We aren’t afraid of change.”
Thompson and Richardson attribute Nellie Mae’s success to their staff. “Our employees are our greatest strength and through a collective drive, we have grown at an astronomical pace,” the owners said, adding in each of the past two years, the store’s sales have grown more than 100 percent.
“Nellie Mae Boutique is a retailer of the year EVERY year to its customers, its 28 employees and the Tuscumbia community,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. ARA hosts Retail Day in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business.
Nellie Mae Boutique, an Alabama Retail Association member, was one of 14 Retailers of the Year honored at today’s luncheon. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.