Photo above: Hollyhock’s shop owner defines success.
By Molly Ingram
What does it take to be a successful shop owner in Beaufort? Well, let’s see. You need business acumen, creativity, tenacity, stubbornness, and maybe luck in the form of good timing and an owner who can do it all. Hollyhocks has been a Beaufort staple for over 16 years and is continually touted as one of our best local successes. Perri Chapman Flaherty, the driving force behind Hollyhocks’ success, embodies all those adjectives and a few more to boot.
Perri graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in marketing and began her business career at the Ritz Carleton in Atlanta where she worked her way through many areas of hotel management. The key training she received while at the Ritz was their approach to customer service. And nobody does it better than the Ritz. “Their goal is to anticipate a guests every need before the guest even knows they want it. And you need to do it with a genuine smile on your face.” But, much as she enjoyed her job at the Ritz, it never created that “spark” that most entrepreneurs look for. There was no passion until she saw her future in Olive Branch, Mississippi when visiting her grandmother. There she found a store called the Checkerberry Shoppe which, after multiple visits, coalesced into a very specific vision for “her store”.
So, deciding the money for grad school would be better invested in her own establishment, she took a giant leap of faith and said, “Beaufort, here I come.” Perri’s parents were already here living out at Coffin Point so home she went to get herself organized and set up. Both of her parents have been more than helpful in putting Hollyhocks on the downtown map. Her dad spent his career in sales and her mother is a “master merchandiser” who is still a help today. But, as much as they were a safety net and sometimes extra hands and feet, it was Perri who could see what Hollyhocks was going to become.
With the help of a local business wiz, Martin Goodman, Perri put together a solid business plan and went to work finding a location in downtown. And it took ages. And ages. And then a few more ages. There was one space that she was interested in right below the Beaufort Yacht Club which put a small sign in the window that said it would be available soon. No dates, no names, no phone numbers. But Perri managed to track down the property manager and began a campaign to move from the bottom of the potential renters list to the winner. Nothing would deter Perri from ultimately getting this store front. A cheery phone call each day to the leasing manager finally worked its magic when he said, “Anybody as tenacious as you will definitely be a success. You can have it.” And so Hollyhocks was born.
Perri started as the owner, buyer, accountant, marketing guru, cleaner, and only sales person. This was the scenario for about six years until two things happened simultaneously – the waterfront started its two year renovation project and a store became available on Bay Street.
Hollyhocks is an unusual store. Perri is in the store every day working with her sales team. The merchandise runs the gamut from lovely women’s clothes that come in very small to very large sizes, great and unusual mementos for the visitors to take home to remind them of Beaufort, beautiful jewelry made by local artisans, and tons of gifts under $20 for just about anybody. It is unusual because the sales team “will tell you the truth about whether something looks nice on you or not. We’d rather be known for our honesty than for getting a quick sale.” But it goes beyond that. Customers at Hollyhocks are never taken for granted. Similar to the Ritz, the Hollyhocks shopper will get a warm welcome when they come in the store, and have help nearby should they need it. The store is warm and friendly with a splash of traditional Southern Charm coming from all corners. Perri believes that much of their success comes from her ability to listen to customers, what they want, what is important to them, what they are reading about in magazines, etc. But you can listen all you want, but a store owner needs to be willing to take a risk and change with the times. Change is very scary to most anyone but in retail it can mean the difference between success and failure. Perri is inherently a listener. Her ability to synthesize what she hears and reads into a workable plan for the store is Hollyhocks secret of success.
If you haven’t stopped into the store recently which is located at 909 Bay Street, you owe it to yourself to go. Besides being a nice place to shop, I guarantee you will find something for someone among her shelves, racks and displays. And you will come out with a smile on your face. Thanks Perri for listening all these years and we are confident that you will keep on listening and stay ahead of the trends as you have done for the last 16 years.