Christina Mitchell and her team at Abejas have a unique approach to running their boutique – and it’s working. For nearly 18 years Abejas has been a source for finding eclectic jewelry, accessories and clothing. How does the store owner and mother of 3 make it all work? By changing what isn’t working, and focusing on what does.
I am from Houston, and I love Houston. There’s a book called HIWI– Houston, It’s worth it, and it describes Houston as being the equivalent of a three-legged stray dog. “It’s ugly, it doesn’t have much to offer, but it’s Houston, and we love it.” I wouldn’t care to live anywhere else; this is it.
What was your vision for Abejas?
No vision. It’s like take it one step at a time, and you see it and it either works or it doesn’t, and you re-tweak it. You know, that’s a big part of who I am. I think I’m just an entrepreneur by nature – I’m hard-wired that way; my dad was, and I guess I get it from him. So many people are like, “what was your business plan? How did you get your start-up money?” I didn’t have a business plan, I just did it – and if it worked it worked, and if it didn’t work, then “necessity is the mother of re-invention.” If your business is failing, clearly you’ve got a necessity there. Rework whatever you’re doing and figure out a different method. I never really had a vision, I just do what I enjoy doing, and buying what I like to buy, and the customers come.
—- We’re not label driven – A lot of times people are like, “what labels do you carry?” And I’m like, It’s not about the label, it’s about the look. At the end of the day you want to be confident, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. Maybe a label brings you confidence.. then fine, go buy that, but you’re not going to find it here. We also joke around, and have a saying, “It’s not what you wear, but how you accessorize.” Accessories are like pillows for a couch – you can change them around, and it changes your outfit completely.
What is your favorite thing about owning a boutique?
Seeing the UPS guy every day! And of course traveling. I do New York twice a year, LA twice a year, and Paris once a year. Every summer for my June LA Market trip I rotate bring my three girls (daughters, ages 9,10,12). They take photos, help pick out merchandise, and make it so fun.
What distinguishes Abejas from other boutiques?
I feel like our employees are crazy-insane off the charts amazing. I mean they are – we’re like a family. Ryan’s been with me twelve years. A lot of the basics that we have in here, whether it’s t-shirts or denim, I mean you can go elsewhere to find them, but our customers come here, because they walk in the door, and they know our employees and we have relationships with them. I also feel like we have such a unique, eclectic mix of inventory.
We make inspiration boards, and the girls are so educated in fashion.
What are some of the challenges?
Well, it’s a business, you know, so financially, it’s always a challenge. Balancing “how do you invest money into inventory, but also turn it and make money?” There are good years, and challenging years, and we’ve somehow made it. You know, you can find a really cool vintage Rolex watch, but we may sit on it for four years. You know, you don’t find that right buyer – even though we love and we think it’s phenomenal and unique – to find someone who’s willing to come in and spend $15,000 on an item, takes a couple of years, and that presents a financial challenge.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I love Raquel Allegra. She’s fantastic, and truly a designer. I love Courreges, from the Seventies. I just remember being a little girl, and going into Courreges with my mom. They did a lot of chic prints.
What’s in the future for Abejas?
We’re re-vamping our website right now, and I’m really excited about it, because when our site’s up, it’s going to be the most unique site you’ve ever seen. It’s not going to be over-designed; it’s not going to be all shiny and glitzy. I told the girls, “get away from selling product on the website. We want to present a website that gives an aesthetic that people want to buy-into. They don’t know why they like it, but they want it.”
You can visit Abejas Boutique at 5600 Kirby Dr S4, Houston, TX 77005 or shop online at www.abejasboutique.com