Virginia Jane Clothing + Gifts
9430 S. Northshore Drive, No. 105
Meagan Puckett cut her teeth in retail at a hometown boutique in Birmingham, Alabama, right out of college. The Muscle Shoals native did much more than tag dresses and tidy the shelves. She learned how to run a business, from spreadsheets and pricing to understanding the customer and learning how to serve. When she and her family landed in Knoxville, Meagan recognized a need for a modern boutique with moderate price point, especially in the Northshore area.
“I work really hard to find brands other people don’t have,” she says. “I look for elevated, casual, everyday apparel that’s unique. Feminine, but not too trendy.”
Meagan trusts her instincts when it comes to buying items she thinks her 30-something+ customers will like. After years of doing in-home wardrobe consultations, she’s learned how to work with the individual rather than bend to the masses. She aims to keep with trends while also offering items Knoxvillians can’t find anywhere else in town.
“I don’t subscribe to fashion magazines. I work with good, solid brands, and the trends present themselves,” says Meagan. “It’s not just about buying. It’s about building trust with my clients, knowing their fit and style. Service is the biggest thing. I want to be known for hospitality and service.”
Knoxville Soap, Candle, & Gifts
714 S. Gay Street
Jodi Bowlin Eades worked as the store manager when Knoxville, Soap, Candle, & Gifts was still in Fountain City. She bought the place in 2008 and eventually moved the shop to Bearden in 2014. It was a tricky move, one that made Jodi realize that foot traffic was a missing element to the overall success of the store. Four years later, she secured a perfect spot downtown on Gay Street and hasn’t looked back.
“The new location meant new customers, both locals and tourists,” she says. “I didn’t know it at the time but we’re along the art walk here. The Arts and Culture Alliance does so much to promote downtown, so that was an added bonus.”
Knoxville Soap, Candle, & Gifts is much more than the name suggests. Jodi is quick to point out that her store isn’t Yankee Candle, and it’s not the sort of shop that carries big name brands, such as Vera Bradley. Instead, it’s a local makers store with more than 40 vendors - 75 percent of them local and the remaining 25 percent purchased through local reps.
“I don’t do a lot of repeat [items], and I don’t want to be like everyone else,” says Jodi. “When someone is looking for a truly local gift, it’s here. People feel good when they leave. There’s a lot of love and thought put into what’s handpicked for this store.”
6513 Kingston Pike, Suite 106
If you were a client of Janice Ann’s, then chances are you’re already in-the-know about KC’s Fashions. Kim Smith bought Janice Ann’s in 2020 and only recently changed the name and hired an extra person. There’s something to be said about the perks of longstanding best practices, so Kim’s made only a few changes to a boutique that was already on sturdy legs. She’s loving the new 20s-era styles (where just about anything goes), and she has a keen eye for styles that work for a specific group of women who want to love what they’re wearing.
“I’m in my 50s, so I’m not my mom and I’m not my daughter. When people come in and talk negatively about themselves, we want them to stop, take a break, look around, and see that they can love how they look in clothes,” says Kim. “We want to be your personal shopper, to pull things from the rack, to encourage you to trust us when we suggest a color, a style, or a shape.”
Kim and her staff are highly tuned in to the wants and needs of their customers. In fact, going to market is in part a necessity, but it’s also an opportunity to hunt for new and exciting pieces to bring home for specific clients.
“When I go to market, I’m seeing customers’ faces and body types, seeing pieces that will look good on them. When I buy, I have my customers in mind,” she says. “I want to build a relationship with each person. I want to challenge them, which is something I’m doing for myself. I’m wearing colors I haven’t worn in 15 years.”
11124 Kingston Pike, Suite 113
Uri Freijanes is a second-generation jeweler, so when it came to opening a jewelry store in Knoxville 25 years ago, she was already steps ahead of the rest. Over time, Uri honed her personal style which then influenced the pieces she carried in her store. Today, International Flair is the place to go for everything from classic wedding rings and gemstones to contemporary, everyday jewelry and one-of-a-kind custom pieces.
“I love my industry and I love taking care of customers,” she says. “I love helping them choose the right gifts and how you can personalize any piece of jewelry to make it their style. We don’t just sell jewelry. We make it, repair it, remodel it, and redesign it.”
Uri credits the Jewelry Circular Keystone show in Las Vegas for helping her cultivate a diverse collection of pieces in her store. Hosting thousands of vendors from all over the world, Uri’s been keen to explore what’s current in the industry in other countries, to experiment with color and design, and bring unique pieces back home to Knoxville. She aims to offer customers items they can’t find anywhere else in town.
“When you go to a major chain store, you are dealing with salespeople who are selling you jewelry. When you come to me, you’re coming to a gemologist,” she says. “You’re dealing with someone who understands construction and has a knowledge of jewelry. If I don’t have it, I can get it or make it. There’s not much we can’t do.”
5508 Kingston Pike, Suite 130
Lisa Gangelhoff and her husband were looking to move away from Oregon, and all they knew is that Tennessee would be a great place to land. With more than decade of merchandising and buying experience with Nike under her belt and a desire to work for herself, Lisa stumbled upon a business up for sale - Elle Boutique in Bearden.
“I visited Knoxville for the first time to visit the business, and it felt right. There are lots of positives here - easy to get around, friendly people,” says Lisa, who purchased Elle Boutique in December 2020. “I’m extremely familiar with fashion and retail, so I didn’t change much. I seek products with brands we already carried and also carry brands exclusive to us, like Mother Denim and Citizens of Humanity. I don’t want to carry the things everyone else has. I want to be known for exclusivity.”
Though Elle Boutique’s primary clientele is the thirty-something woman, there are pieces for college age to 60-plus. In addition to women’s clothing, a men’s offering will be featured soon, primarily denim from Citizens of Humanity and tops by Velvet.
“We love our customers. We know them by name. Everyone likes to walk in and feel like someone knows who they are,” says Lisa. “We want them to shop with confidence. They’ll get good service here and find something unique and special.”