Ashley Parham, co-owner of Memphis boutique gift shop Walking Pants Curiosities, is living out her dreams. The trajectory leading up to the launch of the shop she owns with her fiancé Daryl Andrews is a remarkable love story full of faith and courage.
On the pair’s second date, they noticed a vacant building while walking the streets of South Main. It was then they decided they wanted to use that space to open up a store. Although both were between jobs, had less than $400 combined to fuel their dream and a very unconventional business plan, they didn’t let it stop them.
Ashley refers to Walking Pants’ vision, launch and everything thereafter as a “God thing” because of how events unfolded. And while she and Daryl, who is now her fiancé, have made their mark in downtown Memphis as the friendly, artsy couple who own the fun gift shop, Ashley says there’s still more to do. The couple is currently working on pitching a TV show while also managing their businesses amid a pandemic.
Meet Ashley Parham, our newest FACE of Memphis, who spoke to us about building a business with her fiancé, what keeps her motivated during difficult times, and what’s next for the entrepreneurial duo.
Tell us about Walking Pants Curiosities. How did you come up with the concept of a gift shop featuring local artists?
It’s been a God thing — the whole experience for us. We didn’t sit down and say how many artists we could get; everything just kind of happened. I always knew I wanted to own a boutique. One of my strongest assets is I am all about people. And I’m creative. I’d also worked in retail for most of my life, and I have a strong background in customer service. So it all fit together.
Daryl and I both knew we wanted to make a difference somehow and give back — not just to our community — but to people who are traveling here to Memphis. Thankfully, we’ve been able to do that through the gift shop. We consider ourselves storytellers through business.
You really took a leap of faith when opening Walking Pants with little funds. What made you go for it?
Honestly, this is the path and place we were led to. Just like Daryl and I meeting one another, it was a divine, unexplainable intervention. When we shared our idea of opening a store with our family and closest friends, not one of them discouraged us but instead said, “Go for it!” With the way it all transpired, and now looking back over the years, I know in my heart we didn’t really choose this space to have a store. It chose us.
What’s it been like having your boyfriend, now fiancé, as a business partner?
God brought us together, just like he led us to this place we now call Walking Pants, as well as our home. Yes, we live above our store. When our creative visions and dreams basically collided, that’s when the magic happened. Going into business together early in your relationship sounds absolutely insane to most, but it just made sense somehow.
It’s been the most amazing and scary ride I’ve ever been on in my life. Being in a new relationship and learning about each other while running a business has been interesting and, at times, intense. I tell people don’t let this store or façade fool you. We don’t have it all together. We’ve learned some hard lessons, but having a business together also helped us grow stronger together. We’ve had to fight our way to still be here.
Tell us about some of those struggles.
There are months I would be embarrassed to tell you how much we made. There are many nights we can’t sleep and many mornings we don’t want to get up, but we keep going.
What keeps you motivated?
We began asking ourselves with every obstacle, “Is this pain worth the passion?” If the answer is yes, we don’t quit no matter what. You’ll never know why suffering for your heart’s passion is worth the price if you give up. Daryl and I take it day by day, and some days, hour by hour. We pray, and together we figure out what we can for that day. There are sleepless nights and mornings filled with utter fear to even open our eyes. But our dreams are big, and there are lives to impact and change by showing that love works.
What do you love most about the South Main Arts District — the area where your boutique is located?
I’ve lived in almost every suburb in Memphis, but South Main is magical. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s authentic. The people here are genuine and care about this city. The support we have and the friendships we have made and the tourists who come here — we’re able to tell them about our city and the history here. This is truly a city of second chances. Everybody here has a side hustle, and there is just an outpouring of love. On South Main, we are one big family. We have so many memories here.
What’s one of your fondest memories?
For our one-year anniversary of Walking Pants, we still didn’t have a store sign because we couldn’t afford it. We’d talked to this company about doing our sign, and they gave us a quote out of budget at the time, but one day the man from the company came by and told us someone paid the deposit for our sign and they were ready to put it up for us. We still don’t know who the person is. After that, I wanted to have a lighting ceremony for the sign because that was a huge victory for us. During the ceremony, Daryl also proposed.
Those are definitely amazing memories. Has COVID-19 changed your plans for a wedding ceremony?
Yes, we were going to block off the street and get married in front of the store this year. Now we have to wait until next year, but it’s no big deal.
You’re also a licensed realtor. Why did you decide to pursue a real estate license?
I wanted to help people and be a part of life change, and purchasing homes is one of the biggest decisions people can make in their lives.
What has been one of your proudest accomplishments since opening Walking Pants?
Outside of Walking Pants, I would have to say when Daryl and I opened the Harley-Davidson store on South Main because that’s part of our dream and larger vision — to tell the story of South Main and help other artists. Pitching this idea, filming it and getting the okay to open it — the store has been a great opportunity to continue living out our dream.
What’s next for you? What are you working on?
We’re currently pitching a TV show where we help creatives build out their own spaces. We’ve gotten some traction from a few studios and producers. Mostly everyone we have reached out to has at least written us back. We want to make sure we have someone willing to step out of the box with us. We’re currently working on finding the right fit.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Goodness, more than I could ever remember! I should have taken notes! I’ll go with the piece of advice that helps me the most, currently. Early in our relationship, Daryl asked me a question when he realized I was in over my head with anxiety and isolation. He said, “Ashley, tell me one thing you are grateful for.” Well, as it turns out, finding one thing you are grateful for in a moment of stress changes everything! When in the valley, cling to gratefulness.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My topknot hair, my onesies and comfy clothes, and road trips!
Thank you, Ashley. Walking Pants Curiosities is located at 109 G.E Patterson, Memphis, Tennessee 38103. Learn more at walkingpants.co.
All images submitted by Ashley Parham.