George’s Girls put shopping skills to work
Ann Yarbrough and her three daughters have poured their passion and talent for shopping into a growing boutique on the beach in Old Town Bay St. Louis.
Their shop, George’s Girls, started out modestly in November 2011 in a tiny portion of the rambling Maggie May’s collection of shops around the corner on Main Street. Expanding in size and merchandise always was on their minds.
“Initially we started out with bedding and sleepwear, and now we have expanded to tabletop dressings, beach covers, bags and towels, linen and leather handbags, wallets, scarves, jewelry, shower curtains and matching rugs,” said Yarbrough.
The store gets its name from Ann’s late husband, who suffered a fatal heart attack during a family vacation in Michigan.
The couple had worked as a team for Latter & Blum and she briefly returned to real estate after his death but it wasn’t the same.
“It felt very lonely and empty for me so that’s when we got the idea to go into retail,” she said.
So to give Ann another option and in honor of George’s memory, she said, “We decided to do what the four of us do best — and that’s shopping.” The plan to open their shop came together very quickly. “The girls all loved the idea so we emptied our wallets so to speak and went to market in Atlanta,” she said.
Yarbrough and daughter Laura Lucore run the shop. Laura, a mom whose background is in social work, said she never planned on going to retail. “But I really like it a lot more than I dreamed of.”
Daughters Jennifer Yarbrough, of Boston, and Karen Yarbrough, of Chicago, shop for merchandise at market and help out in the store when they are home for visits and over the holidays.
“We all meet in Atlanta for the wholesale market at least twice a year,” Ann said.
The foursome have a method to cover the gigantic market, which covers more than seven million square feet of space where new lines of home, rug, gift and apparel are unveiled for buyers.
“We split up and then meet back at the hotel and bring all the different purchases,” Ann said. They put all their discoveries on a spreadsheet to help guide them in their buying. Each woman brings her own tastes and perspective to what she thinks would appeal to George’s Girls’ customer. “We try to have something in the store that everybody will like,” Ann said.
Turns out George’s Girls have a real knack for picking items that customers like. So much so that they discovered some things even before Oprah Winfrey, considered retail royalty, chose them as her famous “favorite things.” The Yarbroughs found the Urban MuuMuu lounge tonic before Oprah. “So Oprah is trailing us,” Ann laughed.
The bad news is, once Oprah shines her media spotlight on something, wholesalers sometimes can’t keep up with demand and orders to shops like George’s Girls can be delayed.
Still, adding new lines and items keeps George’s Girls fresh. One new line is Thomas Paul, which makes linen shower curtains in popular coastal designs. Another is South Carolina-based Spartina 449, which got raves from The Oprah Magazine, Southern Living and other publications, makes handbags, accessories and jewelry and donates a portion of its sales to Daufuskie Island.
The Yarbroughs said their merchandise adds luxury to the bedroom, the bath and to customers’ lifestyle. Said Laura, “We carry a lot of things to make your home more comfortable: pillows, accessories for the home and bedroom.”
Moving to the new French Settlement retail development immediately gave the shop more space and when a coffee shop next door closed, another 260 feet of space became available.
“We doubled our space just moving over to French Settlement,” Ann said. “We always have been looking to expand because we’re very blessed and very well supported by our loyal customers,” Ann said. “We appreciate their support.”
Besides local customers, George’s Girls’ shoppers come from Louisiana, including New Orleanians with second homes on the Coast. “They finally are coming back after Katrina. It’s taking a long time for all of us.”
Ann Yarbrough said having the shop has been a learning experience that she enjoys.
“It’s just fun coming to work. I look forward to coming work and can’t stay away. It’s just pure joy.”
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