JAMESTOWN – Allison Barta always had an interest in fashion, clothing and design – but it wasn’t until she moved to Fentress County that she fostered that love into a career.
Barta is celebrating seven years at the helm of The Boutique in Jamestown and has essentially self-taught her way to success, and she took certainly took a path less traveled. First, she put her dreams on hold to help her husband launch a successful contracting business in Arizona, his lifelong dream. In 2004, they bought property in Fentress County, where Barta has spent a portion of her childhood close to family, and decided that’s where they’d spend their golden years.
But that plan accelerated when Barta was diagnosed with Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease. The couple needed an alternate exit strategy, so they sold their commercial office and warehouse and retired early to Tennessee.
Name: Allison Barta
Title/occupation: Owner, The Boutique
Address: 104 N. Main St., Jamestown, TN 38556
Family members: Clint (husband, 48), Blake (son, 27), Lacey (daughter, 21)
Education: No college, but I made sure my children attended! My son is a graduate of University of California Berkeley and is currently attending Columbia University in NYC for his fourth degree. Our daughter attends TTU and is a business major.
The move must have served them well. Barta was able to get her Crohn’s under control, and in 2009, The Boutique was born. At that time, there were very few unique and affordable clothing options in the area, Barta says, aside from a few big box stores. She knew she could fill the void. It certainly proved a standout concept. Now, similar stylish shops have popped up all over the region, from Cookeville to Crossville and Gainesboro and more.
But The Boutique’s bonus? The Jamestown store is retail-and-restaurant-in-one. After all, shopping works up an appetite.
Q: Tell us about your first paying job? What did it entail?
A: I bussed tables at a restaurant in a local country club. The golf pro eventually became my brother-in- law and he introduced me to the game…I spent all my wages on clothing and golf equipment. Fortunately, my buckets of range balls were free as I hit 2,000 every day!
Q: How long has The Boutique been in business?
A: We have been in business since April 2009. We also have a small restaurant inside the store that serves lunch daily.
Q: Give a brief history/background of the business and its standing today.
A: I have always had an interest in fashion and knew I would eventually move in that direction when time/life permitted. I was able to partner in a clothing boutique and restaurant in Arizona and spent more than two years planning and implementing that concept, however, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s the following year and stepped away from the business shortly after it opened.
Once I was able to get my medical issues under control, I knew wanted to continue in a fashion direction. I also wanted to have time to connect with the community and customers, stay humble and never, EVER wear pantyhose again. The Boutique bloomed from these thoughts. I chose the most obvious name for the store as people in the area were not familiar with the concept of a “boutique,” which is just as a specialized store offering unique goods or services.
My father (a Jamestown native) says, “If you last three years in Jamestown, you’re a legend.” LOL!
Seriously, we have had consistent, steady growth each year and will continue to operate The Boutique, along the lunchroom (located inside The Boutique), in a similar manner, while staying abreast of local, regional and national trends.
Q: What makes you or your business different from others in the region (and beyond)?
A: In our area, we are known for courtesy…never judge a customer. The older lady wearing the mucky boots may just be your biggest sale of the day.
Q: Are there any plans for expansion (new products? Other locations?) We’re dying to know!
A: It’s a secret…although we also own the building next door!
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in retail at the moment?
A: Staying as competitive as online stores; training/ sourcing quality employees.
Q: What do you wish you had known before you started your business/career?
A: How much personal time it takes to ensure success; the impact/strain it has on your whole family.
Also, while I have no formal secondary education, I made it a point to learn everything related to running a profitable small business…from legal issues, accounting, HR, purchasing, taxes and sales. Back then, we didn’t have the internet, so I spent a good amount of time in the library educating myself, along with partnering with mentors from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) through the SBA.
Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?
A: Reading and embroidery
Q: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
A: None. I’m an eight-to-10 cups of tea a day person!
Q: What’s your next big goal, either personally, professionally or both?
To successfully pass my business to the next generation.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to be outside the office?
A: Dale Hollow Lake
Q: Are you involved in any civic activities in Fentress County?
A: Fentress Hope Foundation. We also support most requests from school groups, clubs or sports.
Q: Use one word to describe yourself.
Q: What would be your go-to karaoke song?
A: Spice Girls, “Wannabe”…but only if my girl gang sang with me!