Sometimes, a local business story is as sweet as honey.
That’s how it’s been for Misty Raines.
Together with her friend Angela Riddle, the two operate Jakz & Honey Boutique — the amalgamation of different businesses that are stronger together as one.
“In summer 2018, I purchased Everything Beautiful Boutique — one of Somerset’s original small retail boutiques,” said Raines, who wanted to make the store her own and thus rebranded as Local Honey Boutique the next year.
However, as Raines noted, “small retail is rapidly declining industry as online shopping from ‘big retail’ is often more convenient and more affordable.” As big a dream as it may be, it can be difficult for the smaller business to thrive. And so in February 2020, Raines merged her store with a successful local boutique, Trader Jakz, owned by a dear friend who was also feeling the brunt of declining sales, said Raines.
“This made for a fantastic opportunity for the two of us to minimize overhead and work together,” she said. “We rebranded as ‘Jakz & Honey Boutique’ — a little mish-mash of our shop names.”
Though Raines, a native of Monticello in Wayne County, hasn’t always been a retail business owner, she’s no stranger to that world and what it entails.
“Most of my life, I’ve worked either retail sales or radio and those have been the jobs I’ve felt most connected to people,” said Raines. “I fell in love with small business while working for our local Forcht Broadcasting stations. Mike Tarter and Amy Stroud were excellent role models and believe passionately in the power of local radio for the benefit of small businesses like mine.
“With their professionalism, guidance, and experience, they helped to instill in me a deep interest and appreciation for our local businesses and taught me why shopping small and supporting local economy is so vital,” she added. “I was inspired to own my own business and offer the community access to gifts and apparel with my own taste and flair.”
While she’s traveled and lived in places like Lexington, Frankfort, and Nashville, there is no place like home for Raines — that being the Lake Cumberland area. Somerset is a great place to raise her 13-year-old daughter Ava and enjoy time with her golden retriever and “sidekick” Charlie Earl — both of whom are “much cooler” than her, quipped Raines.
“I absolutely love this community,” said Raines of Somerset. “Being a stone’s throw from my family isn’t half-bad, either.”
The boutique store carries a number of apparel items, sizes small to 3XL, and boasts a large selection of all sizes.
“We like to say Jakz and Honey ‘sells clothes to happy souls’ but the truth is, we just really love funky, fun clothes and tees,” said Raines. “Our personal shop favorites are, hands down, the gifts we carry. We are fans of humor and sarcasm and our customers have that same appreciation for laughter!”
Of course there have been challenges — and in 2020, that was true of everyone everywhere, and every business like that of Raines and Riddle. It was the “most bizarre retail year” Raines has ever experienced, she said.
“COVID-19 has certainly changed the retail atmosphere,” she said. “There is significantly less foot traffic than in years prior. Soon after merging our businesses, Angela and I were thwarted into mandatory closure due to the virus. We had no training for how to run a small business during a global pandemic, so we survived by offering curbside pick-up and shipping items we showcased on our social media accounts. We showed up nearly every day, business as usual.
“This has been a year of struggle and survival, skipped paychecks to keep the store open, and of absolute love and support from the beautiful souls who support our shop, near and far,” she added.
Through it all, the store stands at in the Grand Central Place Shopping Center (the sign still says “Trader Jakz”), and enjoys a healthy online presence as well. The private Facebook group — https://www.facebook.com/groups/jakzandhoney (Jakz & Honey Boutique: VIP) — is where “we congregate and celebrate new arrivals,” said Raines. Jakz & Honey is currently working on numerous projects to increase ease of online shopping and increase item availability and inventory.
And what makes it all worth it for a people person like Raines is the customer who becomes a friend when they come through the door — what’s sweeter than that?
“The absolute best part of opening a business in Somerset is the opportunity to garner friendships,” said Raines. “I’m a ‘people junkie.’ I love getting to know folks. I love putting a smile on someone’s face. I love that I’ve met some of the coolest people Earth has to offer —whether they’re 7 years old or 70. I love to listen to people. I love the opportunity to find someone a killer outfit that makes them feel comfortable, sexy, and confident. It’s the best part of the job and the driving force when I decided to take the scary plunge into business ownership.”