More than any other quality, Southern Muse founder Kim Clark wanted her Collierville boutique to be fresh — a place you wouldn’t find on just any corner in just any suburb. A place where, when you bought a blouse or a scarf for that art opening or dinner party, you wouldn’t see the same blouse or scarf on a woman across the room.
“We’re bringing on board a lot of new brands, exclusive brands,” says Kim. “It seems like you find a dress and go to the next boutique down the way and it’s the same dress. We don’t want to be the same boutique that you see everywhere else.”
Kim began putting that idea in play before they even placed the boutique’s first merchandise order, starting from the ground up. When studying the market, she noticed that a lot of boutiques in the Collierville and Germantown areas were embracing the “farmhouse chic” aesthetic. So they decided to go a different direction with their 4,200-square-foot store, which opened in October in Collierville’s Country Club Collections shopping center near Poplar Avenue and Houston Levee Road. “There’s barn wood everywhere, pallets everywhere,” says Kim, an interior designer who’s also a newcomer to the fashion scene. “That’s why we did something completely different with the décor. We felt like we needed a more upscale, polished look.”
That’s not to be confused with aloof – Kim wants Southern Muse to be known as anything but. From the store’s name to its customer service style to its merchandise mix, its co-owners want the shop to feel approachable and its customers comfortable. “We picked the word ‘Southern’ because we wanted the place to feel like there was a certain amount of hospitality,” Kim says. “That’s why we have the furniture. We wanted to make it homey. And ‘Muse’ is the goddess of inspiration. What’s more inspiring than a new outfit, than looking great?”
The shop serves complimentary drinks, from soda to champagne. In fact, the custom wrap desk features a built-in wine cooler beneath its sleek, metal-laced Cambria quartz countertops. Every morning, they pick up fresh-baked cookies from Smallcakes, a bakery just a few doors down from the shop.
Near the fitting rooms, a lounge-like seating area is oriented toward a TV that features whatever the current moment demands. Shopping with kids? Kim is happy to tune to cartoons. Husband or boyfriend waiting outside the fitting room? They’ll flip it to football. “We try to be pretty accommodating,” Kim says. In fact, once she even ran to the sports bar next door to snag a drink for a customer who joked, “Got any Scotch?” when they asked him what he wanted to drink.
But most of all, the store’s staff want to accommodate guests’ fashion and shopping needs. Matt Gossett, the shop’s in-house professional makeup artist and all-around go-to guy, says he likes to think of Southern Muse as the suburban woman’s answer to Laurelwood. “Out here we needed something different,” says Matt, who grew up in and lives in Collierville. “It sounded like people out here were thirsting for something that wasn’t Macy’s. Basically, we’re Southern elegance with a little bit of edgy flair. We don’t have a certain kind of clothing. If you come in looking for leather, we’ve got leather. If you come in looking for silk, we’ve got silk.”
Kim intentionally catered the selection to clientele of all ages, sizes and tastes. Southern Muse carries clothing and accessories that might appeal to a wide age range, from teens to seniors. It carries gifts, makeup, jewelry and accessories, and even some housewares. “It’s big enough that we target everyone,” says Kim. “We like to get things that are different, that you don’t find just anywhere. When we call up our lines we say, ‘Show me what’s special.’”
Kim was previously part of a collective boutique that was also in Collierville – Kim had found her way into retail through a design-focused booth at Sheffield Antiques Mall. She quickly realized that she wanted her own place – something larger, something she could build into the type of store where she wanted to shop herself. She quickly realized her customers craved more than clothing and accessories. “We want to be the first store people think about when they think of just about anything,” Kim says. “Want a teacher gift? ‘I want to go to Southern Muse.’ Need an outfit for dinner? ‘I want to go to Southern Muse.’”
Though the clothing is higher-end, with names like AG Jeans, Chaser Tees and Amour Vert – it’s not your spot for $20 dresses – the co-owners emphasize that they’re striving to carry something for everybody. “You could leave here with a wedding, baby or birthday gift,” Kim says, adding, “From a $5 bath bomb to a $500 fur.”
Kim also sees Southern Muse not just as a store, but as a brand. That’s another reason she heavily focused on the store’s décor – to create a look that matched the glam, yet sociable vibe they want the shop to exude. Kim chose the shop’s signature lavender hue, which pops up on accent walls, on a pair of tufted chairs in the seating area and even on the shop’s Facebook page, for its playful glamour. “And adding the gold to it I think adds kind of a decadence and chicness that you don’t necessarily see everywhere,” she says. “We’re not afraid of a little sparkle.”
Kim emphasizes the “local” aspect of their business. She also lives in Germantown. Kim says the most fun part of opening a boutique, for her, has been watching customers’ reactions to the shop. “Everyone says, ‘Wow, it’s big. Wow, it’s beautiful,’” she says. “I like when they say, ‘Do you carry this brand?’ and we say, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ And if we don’t, we’re calling ’em and we’re getting it.”
Southern Muse is located at 2140 West Poplar Ave., Collierville, TN 38017. Learn more at (901) 221-7479 or at shopsouthernmuse.com.
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