Photo by Layton Dudley
Linda Ford, left, and Sue Matthews have managed to turn their flea market hobbies into a successful business selling gift items and even providing gift wrapping and customization services at Cahaba Lily South.
With more than 30 years of retail and real estate experience, it was only a matter of time before Sue Matthews and Linda Ford joined forces to start the Cahaba Lily South boutique at 5479 U.S. 280.
Previously, the pair ran flea market booths in addition to their regular day jobs, Matthews as a real estate agent and Ford as an interior designer. Eventually, they turned their side hobby into a full-fledged business, and the boutique opened its doors in March 2018.
When purchasing merchandise for the store, the duo will go to different markets, usually in Atlanta, to stock up on items. Occasionally, they’ll even go antiquing to find items with more of a vintage flair and revamp them to sell in the store. However, they also like to be able to showcase local artist’s work.
“We have artwork, pottery, cards,” Matthews said. “We love to have local artists involved in the store.”
The best-selling items in the store, however, would have to be their wide selection of baby clothes with sizes ranging from infant to toddler.
“One of the reasons I started selling baby [items] in a booth that I had was that there was maybe one other place that sold them,” Ford said. “So I felt like it was a market right here in this area that we needed.”
In addition to baby clothes, the store also stocks jewelry, a spectrum of home décor items, as well as another one of their best sellers: candles. Matthews and Ford believe that the boutique’s location gives customers in that area the chance to find the perfect gift for a special someone without having to go all the way to The Summit or into Birmingham. The boutique sees a variety of customers daily.
“We have a little bit of something for everyone,” Ford said. “We do have 5 percent sales tax and we do free gift wrapping.”
Other offered gift options include monogramming in different colors and sizes, customizable orders for jewelry and, of course, gift certificates. The store even employs a wish list system, where a customer can come in pick out items that they’d like to receive and family and friends can view and pick items from the list, similar to a registry.
Occasionally, Matthews said, some people buy everything on the list.
“The thing that we hear the most from our customers is ‘I can always come in here and find a great gift, have it gift wrapped and be out the door in 10 minutes,’” Matthews said. “The public kind of tells you what your store is going to be.”
She compares this to her time as a real estate agent and how buyers would come to her with an idea of what house they wanted.
“It’s all about being a good listener,” she said.