Jackson’s 4450 gives women contemporary design
When a tenant notified property owners Luke and Alison Abney that they’d be moving out, the couple saw an opportunity.
The Abneys first foray into the retail business was their purchase of Jackson’s iconic men’s store, The Rogue, in 2005.
“I was born and raised in Jackson and had been shopping there since I could fit in their clothes,” Luke Abney said. “I love the clothes business and the fashion business. I always wanted to own my own business, and this opportunity came along at the right time.”
A few years later, when Harold’s notified the Abneys that they’d be moving, the couple decided to expand into women’s clothing, accessories and shoes with a new store across from The Rogue.
The first step was a total renovation of the 2,500-square-foot space. The result was a 180-degree change, with contemporary, minimalist design taking the place of colonial style, and Forty Four Fifty – named for the shop’s address — opened in Sept. 2008.
As for merchandise, Abney said his wife and the expertise of knowledgeable staff poured through fashion lines to find designers that were compatible with the couple’s vision for the store.
“We didn’t just open a store and put a bunch of rookies in there,” he said. “The girls we hired have more than 70 years of combined experience, and they knew what their customers wanted.”
Abney said challenges have included learning what makes customers return and opening a store in a downturning economy, but said overall, running the new business has been fairly smooth.
“Alison and the girls [at Forty Four Fifty] offer the whole look,” he said. “Whether it’s priced right or the value that’s there, or service that’s there, there is something that keeps customers coming back.”
Plus, Abney said Forty Four Fifty has an opportunity with each new season to learn what works and what doesn’t.
“We learn every season how to make our store better, how to retain our current customers and get new customers,” he said.
He cited the recent Beaus & Belles party, hosted by The Rogue, Forty Four Fifty and the online magazine My Scoop Mississippi, which drew more than 300 to the stores. Many in the crowd had never been to the store.
“Whether it’s through Facebook, an email, a phone call, a letter, or events like the Beaus & Belles party, we are always trying to find ways to expose new customers to the store,” Abney said.