By LaShaunda Jordan The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After almost 18 years as a drug rep, Vicki Rountree had been through several layoffs and rehires. With the last layoff, she knew it was time to follow her passion. No longer willing to put her dream off, "Monkey Britches Boutique" was born.
When many people hear the word boutique, "fancy shmancy" may come to mind.
At Monkey Britches Boutique, the purpose and mission is simple: provide high-quality clothing, shoes and accessories for children that are both fashionable and affordable.
Owner Vicki Rountree, a Hahira native, had a vision for children to be dressed in top-quality, age-appropriate clothing that looks great on kids while being affordable for everyone.
"I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I always knew that I would open my own business one day," Rountree said. "Somehow I always thought it would be a restaurant but I told my husband I think it's time."
After almost 18 years as a drug rep, Rountree had been through several layoffs and rehires. With the last layoff, she knew it was time to follow her passions. The pharmaceutical industry was just too volatile.
"This particular lay off was different in that normally when you get the call that's it, and you don't go back into the field, but this company was going to allow me to work for two more months, and during those two months I had time to think about what I really wanted to do," Rountree said.
Monkey Britches Boutique officially opened March 7, 2015, on the corner of Railroad and Main streets in Hahira. Most of the buildings right along the railroad tracks were built in the early 1900s.
"The history of this building means so much to me," Rountree said. "I've had people come in and say, 'Oh, I remember when this was Overstreets Drug Store back in the 1940s.' Those kinds of things mean a lot to me."
Rountree and her husband said they have a great love for the history of Hahira; she said it means a lot to them and their heritage.
"When I decided I wanted to do a children's boutique, that came from necessity because I had a grandson, and it was difficult to find nice boutique clothing that was affordable, and I thought there has got to be a way that I can dress my grandson in boutique clothes and still afford them," Rountree said.
Bennett is the name of her grandson, and so several of her friends suggested naming the store Bennett's on Main.
"If I was a kid, I wouldn't want to go to a store called Bennett's on Main," Rountree said. "I really wanted my store to be kid-friendly; I wanted kids to want to come there, and I started thinking about monkeys, and Monkey Britches just popped in my head."
Once Rountree got the name, she began working on a design, and she drew the logo of a cute little monkey in some green britches. The monkey theme is carried all throughout the boutique. The shoe department is called monkey toes, and the baby registry is called monkey do, and there are vintage sock monkeys placed throughout the store.
"Everything just all started coming together," Rountree said. "God had a hand in everything and really lined it all up for me; it happened in order."
Customer loyalty led to the boutique outgrowing the original location just eight months after the original open date. The move provided more space and allowed Rountree to offer more products and sizes.
Lots of people feel out of place and intimidated by some of the swankier, high-end stores; it doesn't help that sometimes the employees can be snobby and make it clear that you're not welcome.
As a family business, Rountree strives to provide a fun and friendly shopping experience for everyone that comes through her doors.
"I love the fact that kids love to come here," Rountree said. "We have an old-fashioned bubble gum machine out front, and I have vintage toys that kids can play with."
At times, Rountree has tricycles in the boutique and holds tricycle races. She provides a lot of fun things, and she even gets down on the floor with them to try on shoes.
"It really is aimed at making the children happy and giving them something to do so that mom can shop peacefully," she said.
A welcoming atmosphere and detail-oriented customer service is important to Rountree, and she learned it early in life by watching and learning from her "daddy," as she affectionately reminisced on why she embodies the entrepreneurial spirit.
Her father started Tomlinson Body Shop when she was young, and they've been in business now for more than 50 years. "I watched my daddy build his business on customer service, and I watched how he treated the customer," Rountree said. "If the customer wasn't happy, it got redone until the customer was happy."
Rountree learned early to always go above and beyond to service the customer.
"That service spirit was something that was instilled in me and my brothers from the beginning," Rountree said.
The way Rountree decorated her boutique said a lot about the importance of family and history. The current location is in a building that is more than 100 years old; utilizing a vintage decorating style reminds Vicki Rountree of wonderful, nostalgic times, while making a statement to her customers of cherished values. The decor creates a cozy refuge from the outside world.
"I wanted a place where the customer felt like they were more that just a credit card," Rountree said. "I wanted them to be more than just a means to an end."
It does not matter to Rountree if a customer spends a dollar or a thousand dollars in her boutique; she said people are going to be treated the same way.
"I grew up watching my parents treat customers like they were royalty," she said. "They may not have always been right, but my daddy always told me to remember they are always the customer, and you have to give them the respect they are due."
Monkey Britches offers many unique lines of children's clothing and shoes, ranging from newborn all the way up to tween sizes. There is even a small maternity section for moms-to-be.
"We like to say we offer an unforgettable customer-service experience, and to me, that's what it's all about," Rountree said.
In addition to specialty and well-known brands , Monkey Britches offers local, handmade bows, jewelry and lesser-known clothing and accessories from people in the community, which allows her to offer something for everyone.
"I care if you come in to my store," Rountree said. "I want to make it so that you feel warm, invited and welcomed where you feel 'she cares about me and she wants me back.'"
Monkey Britches Boutique is located at 107 W. Main St., Hahira. Call (229) 794-4645 or visit monkeybritchesboutique.com.