By STEVEN NALLEY
When Deep South Pout held its ribbon cutting and grand opening on Sept. 2, it was literally twice the boutique it was at its less formal opening June 11.
Nicole Oswalt, co-owner of Deep South Pout, said within three weeks of the opening, it became clear Deep South Pout needed to expand. The store was already crowded this summer, she said, even without Mississippi State University students in town.
“A lot of women don’t like to be crowded when they’re shopping,” Oswalt said. “It was a cute, precious little shop, but once you get more than five people in our small little store that we had at the time, it was crowded. Obviously, the more room we had, the more merchandise we could put out. We realized, we felt like, that God just opened that opportunity for us to rent the suite next door.”
On August 29, less than three months after opening, Deep South Pout expanded its location at the corner of University Drive and Montgomery Street, making more of its unique collection of locally-made, affordable fashion available to Starkville and MSU shoppers.
Technically, the expansion marks the second time Deep South Pout has grown. It began in November 2010, Oswalt said, as a booth inside Savvy Spaces, a Columbus marketplace with 15 small store fronts under a single roof. Deep South Pout still has this booth, Oswalt said.
When Oswalt and fellow owner Shannon Stoker looked into renting a full store suite, Oswalt said their husbands, Justin Oswalt and Jason Stoker, helped with the research into the best locations. Oswalt said she was grateful for their help with both this research and with a lot of the construction work that went into giving Deep South Pout its unique character. For instance, she said, the aged tin on the wall that once separated the original store from its expansion was a gift from Justin’s grandfather.
“So that didn’t cost us anything, and he was proud to let us put his stuff in our building,” Oswalt said. “It just really gave it character. You can’t find old tin, you just can’t. If you wanted to buy it, you just couldn’t find it.
“We really try to keep our costs low,” Oswalt added. “Justin and Jason built, along with the help of some friends, the whole inside, painted everything, trimmed out everything, did everything themselves, just to save on money. We’ve been keeping our monthly overhead pretty low, because you never know what a business will do. You never know if it will take off or it’s not going anywhere.”
Fortunately, Oswalt said, Deep South Pout did take off.
“We just had such a warm welcoming from Starkville,” Oswalt said. “Friends and family, of course, helped get the word of mouth out. God has blessed us so much with customers, repeat customers and new customers that it was just so cramped in our small little area that we needed to consider renting out the suite beside us, which actually was vacant, which was a miracle in itself.”
Oswalt said she and Stoker have tried to make Deep South Pout the kind of place they would like to shop by providing affordable clothing and accessories and selling goods from Mississippi providers whenever possible. For example, Oswalt said, Christy Henderson in Jackson not only makes bracelets for sale in the store but also artwork hanging on its walls. She said Deep South Pout also features candles and soap from Item 13 in Columbus, copper and leather jewelry from LoLeigh’s in Brandon, leather and pearl necklaces and bracelets from Barb’s Blessings in Houston, and handmade headbands, among other things, from Blue Gertrude in Jackson.
“(Blue Gertrude does) a little bit of everything, actually, but their main thing is their earrings,” Oswalt said. “They make gorgeous handmade earrings, hats, purses and belts. Everything is handmade by them.”
Oswalt said she is always looking for new opportunities to sell local goods. She said she encourages local product designers to come to Deep South Pout to show her their wares, and she continually looks for local substitutes for goods she currently buys elsewhere.
“For example, we have the tailgating glasses that are mason jars,” Oswalt said. “I know that we have vendors from Mississippi that we can buy those from. I just haven’t found then yet, so I’ve had to order mine from North Carolina. I’d really much rather buy local here in Mississippi.”