The multi-talented Mary Claire White opened her lifestyle boutique, Falling Into Place, on Broad Avenue in the summer of 2015. Since then, the native Memphian has enjoyed great success selling her curated accessories, art and other charming must-have items, including her made-in-house candles and signature Memphis t-shirts. Mary Claire recalls being in seventh grade and knowing she wanted to run a boutique, even grilling a local shop owner on the ins and outs of shop ownership! It took her several careers — from Home Depot to the elementary school classroom — to reach her dream, and we’re so glad she did. We’re delighted to welcome Mary Claire White as today’s FACE of Memphis.
What inspired you to open your own boutique, Falling Into Place?
I taught second grade for eight years while both of my children attended the same elementary school. Once it got to the point where my youngest was getting ready to leave the school, I started exploring what would be the next chapter of my life, because teaching wasn’t my be-all-end-all career. I thought about going back to school for graphic design and some other ideas. My husband is a carpenter, and he was telling me about all the furniture he was making for decorators, and my first thought was I could have a store and sell the furniture he makes! Then I started thinking, My dream has always been to have a store that sells all the things I love. One of my hidden talents has always been spotting things that are unusual and interesting, and so I just started thinking more about having a retail space and what that meant to me, and I starting crafting it into my dream store. I mean, I was in seventh grade when I had the dream to own a boutique.
What led you to set up shop on Broad Avenue?
I spotted the Broad area and knew it was a place that I could see myself in very easily. I had taken some classes at Five in One Social Club and just really enjoyed the area. I started talking to Alice who owns Five in One about different spaces and what it was like to be on the street. She’s actually the one who contacted me about this space when it became available. She also informed me about MemShop and Communities Unlimited, and I started working with them. They helped me build a business plan and really think about all the things I never would have thought of from a business angle, because my degree is in PR, not business. They really helped me get everything fleshed out and gave me confidence in what I was doing. I spent a whole year organizing, strategizing and figuring everything out for this venture. I signed the lease in April, school ended in May, and I spent June getting everything all set up for a July 2015 opening. I was lucky to have my husband’s help — he put in a new wall, ceilings and windows and turned the back area into my candle-making studio — a total renovation.
So before you were a teacher what did you do?
When I was in college at the University of Memphis getting my PR degree, I worked in the paint department at Home Depot and taught their faux finishing classes. A finisher came in to buy products, and I started chatting her up, and she said, “I really need an assistant if you’d like to come work for me.” And I thought “Yes!” So I went to work for her for a year or so, and it got to a point where my skills were at the same level as hers. She couldn’t afford to make me partner, so I went out on my own for about seven years.
Then my husband and I decided to start a family, and I couldn’t be around paint while pregnant, so I had to give up all of that. Around the same time, a friend was working at a place that sold candle- and soap-making supplies, and she needed someone who was crafty who could learn the products inside and out. I was super crafty, but I knew nothing about candle- and soap-making. So when they hired me, I went in and learned how to make every kind of candle and soap you can imagine. I fell in love with the craft, and candle- and soap-making became my hobby business while I stayed home with my kids, before I returned to school to get my Masters in Education.
And now you sell your line of Falling Into Place candles?
Yes! It’s our signature line of soy wax candles, which are my favorite. They burn very clean. I make the candles in the back of the store, where we also sell them. They are also sold in about 55 stores nationwide, including four in Canada.
What’s your favorite part of the Broad neighborhood?
The people. They have been super welcoming and super accommodating and kind. Everyone is very supportive of each other.
Do you have a mentor or a role model?
I have a business coach based out of Portland, Oregon, who I hired last year, and she has been extremely helpful to me. Stephanie Jones, who owns Me & Mrs. Jones, has been very influential to me, especially in the beginning. She was very much a mentor, and she is still there for me whenever I need her for any questions or concerns.
What’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they come to visit?
That’s always gonna be around food — Central BBQ, Soul Fish Cafe, Jerry’s Snow Cones, The Arcade and Andrew Michael, if we’re feeling fancy. As for non-food places, I’d take them to see Sun Studio and Shelby Farms Park.
What are your hobbies, and how do you unwind?
I love to cook anything and everything, but specifically healthy meals. I have a huge passion for food and its ability to shape your life. If I wasn’t doing this, I might be a nutritionist. As for unwinding, I love to unwind with music.
What inspires you?
People — people’s stories, talking to people, listening to people and teaching them.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower it would be …
The ability to control time. To stop time, fast-forward time or rewind it, if need be.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Pizza! Definitely pizza, especially New York-style.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Write down your goals, because that’s the first step in achieving them. In order to meet your goals, you have to focus on them. To even begin focusing on them, you have to write them down.
What three lighthearted things can you not live without?
Lip balm, my Roomba and my animals! We have seven pets — four dogs, three cats and a chicken! Fortunately, we live on two acres.
Thank you, Mary Claire! Visit her charming store, Falling Into Place at 2613 Broad Ave., Memphis, TN 38112. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call (901) 249-2834 or visit fallingintoplace.net.
Thanks to Micki Martin for the fabulous photos of Mary Claire in her beautiful shop!
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