Donna Allen opened a small booth, Nella & Co., inside Circa Gallery on Sunset Avenue in the spring of 2012. With a few gifts, scarves and handbag items, it was a fun little side business. When Circa Gallery closed, she brought all her items home and she approached her daughters, Gina, Emily and Jillian, about starting up a virtual store. The girls thought it was a great idea and so it began.
They sold out of the first items quickly, and put all of the money right back into buying more inventory. They sold out of the next batch, and did the same thing. In a matter of four or five months they launched a website, and they started waking up to orders for items from all over the country! Gina recalls the day they got an order from Washington State – they were so excited and floored that people from across the country wanted to buy their merchandise.
Donna and the girls were managing all of this online business from the basement of Doug and Donna’s home on Dave’s Mountain. They would have Open Shop Nights where friends and family could enjoy a private shopping experience. People would call Donna for an appointment to come shop, and it turned out that she was getting so many calls her basement business was turning into a full time job. That’s when they realized this was becoming much larger than they anticipated and they needed to consider a new location. Doug encouraged all of his girls to break out of the basement and into the business world.
All of the money from the sales of their stock was going right back into growing the business. They started with four items of clothing, and when those sold out they increased it to eight and so on until they really did have an entire retail store inside the basement of their home. The girls thought, if people will shop in a basement, surely they would shop in a store, if they could just find the right location. So they prayed long and hard about this leap of faith – they knew location was key if their business was to be successful in Asheboro.
Gina resigned from teaching last fall after 12 years in the school system and was looking forward to being a stay-at-home mom. She envisioned this being her first Christmas “at home”… doing all the Christmas projects, leisurely wrapping presents, and not rushing around for the very first time in years. Right after that, the perfect opportunity was presented to them about opening their shop in The Mill on Church Street in Asheboro, across from The Table Farmhouse Bakery and next to Positano Italian Restaurant. They couldn’t have asked for a better location, with a large parking lot and highly trafficked area in downtown Asheboro.
Now that they had a space, Gina realized that they needed to get it ready by Thanksgiving so they could open for Shop Small Saturday – an important day for retail, but more importantly, that was a huge goal to accomplish in about six weeks time. J. B. Davis, the building owner, was very accommodating and able to get them into the space quickly so they could begin the build-out. They contacted local designer, Shanna Hodgin to help them visualize the space, because it was so large with large blank walls, they just didn’t know where to start. Shanna immediately started laying out dressing rooms, bathrooms and storage, and picking out furniture. Realizing how large the space was, they were able to incorporate a studio for Donna’s photography into the back as well. Thankfully, their contractor, Shannon Smith, and their husbands (with construction backgrounds), got to work right away building dressing rooms and shelves.
The beautiful barnwood wall came from East Coast Lumber Company, here in Asheboro, and then they started looking for fixtures. They had an idea of what they wanted – something industrial looking to compliment the space, which had a NY loft feel to it. They went fixture shopping in Greensboro and when they walked into the showroom, they found exactly what they were looking for. Very industrial looking metal piping – when Gina asked the owner if he had any more, and it turns out he made them himself and had just put them out that day. They bought all he had and ordered more! Talk about perfect timing.
Pam Myers is Donna’s first cousin, and she was recruited to paint a number of murals on the walls of the shop. Tami Jobe and Stephanie Hurley of Southern Style did the vinyl sayings on the bathroom walls, and Alicia Kellum comes in to do their monthly chalk board. All local friends and family helped pull the store together. They didn’t sleep much in those six weeks, but they made it.
They opened on Thanksgiving weekend to a resounding success. At one point, Gina looked up and the line to check out was all the way to the back of the store – she was so excited, humbled, and grateful to the community for their support.
Emily has a full-time job, but comes in when she can to work, and Jillian works as a nurse in Memphis, Tennessee and helps with marketing and research from there.
The pace really hasn’t slowed down much since Christmas, either. They recently attended a clothing market in Atlanta, and where before they were limited in the brands who would talk to them, because many designers require a brick and mortar store, now a whole new world has opened up for them and their customers.
Some of the exciting new lines they will be carrying are ‘Southern Frock’ out of Texas. Gina described the style as preppy, party and fun. The new styles will start arriving in mid-April. A denim line, ‘Articles of Society’ also carried by Nordstrom will be exclusive to Nella Boutique here in Asheboro, and offers lots of different styles and colors to choose from. Another new up and coming designer is ‘Never a Wallflower,’ from Denver, Colorado, with styles geared for resort and summer wear, very versatile and the pieces all work well together.
The styles at Nella hit a wide age range, from girls in their 20s and 30s, to women in their 40s and 50s. The styles are flattering and affordable, for really petite figures to ladies who are really tall – they can cover them all.
They strive for their products to be made in the USA, and they continue to carry all of their popular vendors that have become customers’ favorites. They also offer monogrammed gifts via special order that can be turned around in a week. Catalogs are available in the store for you to choose your item and place your order.
Their journey of opening the store went so smoothly that Gina attributes it to the hand of God. She feels very strongly that they were led to be doing exactly what they are doing, because every time an obstacle came up, their prayers were answered and a door opened. They give all the thanks to God who led them to open this business in downtown Asheboro, and feel very deeply that He surrounds them and creates a welcoming, nurturing space for all their customers.
They also aim to give back to their community that they love so much. Nella Boutique recently hosted a Give Back Event to benefit Morgan Hamby, a young woman from the community suffering from ovarian cancer. A portion of the proceeds from the day were donated to the family to help with the growing costs of treatment and travel to beat this diagnosis. This is just one way they feel that this space is allowing them to be the hands and feet of Jesus daily.
“Asheboro is so good. This community has welcomed us with open arms and continues to support us and encourage us. Our sweet, small town is just a great place to do business. It’s neat to see all the ways we have worked within the community over the years, now come together in the boutique – it floors me every time I think about it!” Gina looked around the store as she spoke. “We just want to do what we feel God has called us to do. Okay, so clothing may be our avenue, but I think once you come in the shop, you can see that our passion isn’t just about clothes & accessories. We just want to shine that light back to God for leading us down this beautiful path and to this amazing location. We just want to honor Him with this space.”
If you haven’t had a chance yet to stop in and check it out, come shop with the Allen girls at Nella Boutique, located at 130 S Church Street, Asheboro. You can also check them out on Facebook or Instagram.