By Abby Ponder
When Susan Simmons receives a new shipment of clothes at the Trendy Me boutique in Glasgow, Kentucky, she instantly reaches out to her customers. She’ll pull out her phone, snap a quick picture or two, and send a message.
“A lot of times, new merchandise comes in and I already have someone’s name on it,” Simmons said. “I’ll call them or send a picture of the new item and they’ll tell me to save their size.”
Trendy Me opened in March 2008 under the ownership of Susan Simmons in a strip mall in Glasgow. After renting the space for nearly seven years, Simmons made the decision to relocate the boutique in 2015 to a property that she could own herself.
Now settled in a small house a mile from its original location, Simmons said she wants people to feel like they’re at home when they’re perusing her colorful collections of clothing.
“We greet customers when they come in, tell them what’s going on with sales, and tell them to make themselves at home,” Simmons said, looking around the store with a smile pulling at her lips. “Because we are a little house and this is a home.”
Upon entering the building through a side entrance, visitors are immediately faced with a splash of color. The clothes themselves are bright – oranges, blues and pinks – and the walls create a backdrop of warm yellow paint framed by bright white paneling.
The house itself is divided into sections based on age and interests, though Simmons said there is something for everyone in each section: dresses, blouses and jewelry. Guests who are searching for discounted prices typically have the most luck upstairs.
Opening the store had been Simmons’ dream for a long time, she said.
At 19, she worked in the women’s department at a JCPenney in Nashville. She took to the job immediately and immersed herself in the process of helping women pull together outfits they could feel comfortable wearing, she said.
“My favorite part of the business is the woman who comes in and she doesn’t really know what she wants,” she said. “She’s afraid to try something different, but getting her to switch into one thing and realizing she likes it: that’s the best part.”
After three years at JCPenney, Simmons left the retail business behind and began working in ophthalmology. She remained there for 17 years. However, as 2007 came to a close, she and her husband decided it was time to start their own business. Shortly after that realization, the doors to Trendy Me opened in 2008.
It hasn’t always been easy, but Simmons said she has always found a way to make it work.
“Just a couple months after we opened, the recession hit,” she said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride, but here I am: eight years later.”
In the time since the store’s opening, Simmons has worked to forge relationships with her customers.
“I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but I’m proud of our relationship with the customers,” she said, recalling a daughter, mother, and grandmother who sent her a text earlier in the day informing her that they were “breaking out” and that “the snow [was] not going to keep [them] inside today.”
Only a few moments later, the aforementioned women entered the store shouting greetings and shaking snow from their boots.
The youngest of the trio was Megan Booth, a teacher at Temple Hill Elementary.
“This is more than a business relationship,” Booth said. “This is a friendship. It takes some of the mindless wandering and shopping out of the equation. You have a brand that you love and a person that you trust.”
Simmons’ customers are more than a price tag, and she tries to treat them accordingly, she said.
“When you go into a big store, you are a commission to them or a quota,” Simmons said. Her eyes followed the movements of the three women as they moved through the store. They were the only shoppers inside the house on a day where snow coated the ground outside. “I worked in that industry. I understand that but I don’t want to be like that.”
Subsequently, the relationships she builds are often long lasting.
Kristie Brooks, a Brownsville resident and small business owner, said she believes Simmons’ willingness to reach out on a personal level is what keeps her coming back.
“Now that I don’t live as close, I can still look on their [Facebook] page,” she said.
Simmons now operates two Facebook sites on behalf of Trendy Me in addition to the private messages she sends to patrons of her store. The more popular of the two is her personal account and not without reason, she said with a laugh.
“I went to a couple training classes, and they talked about brands: about how Kleenex and Band-Aid are the brand names,” she said. “People think I’m the brand. They associate Trendy Me with Susan Simmons.”