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June 2012
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Boutiques draw shoppers to Paducah

By Leanne Fullerlfuller@paducahsun.com

Several locally-owned boutique clothing stores in Paducah draw repeat customers from the surrounding region and other states because, according to the owners of three such stores, you can't get what they offer anywhere else.

Marilyn Cassity, owner of Cassitys' in downtown Paducah, estimated that roughly 67 percent of her business comes from folks visiting Paducah from out of town. Cassitys' has been in business at 115 S.  2nd St. for 15 years, and Cassity said her store gets a lot of repeat business from people from Tennessee, southern Illinois and Mississippi.

Some of those people, Cassity said, are folks who own houses on Lake Barkley or Kentucky Lake who stop in Paducah on their way to those houses, and others are people who live within a day's drive of Paducah.

One of the former, who Cassity said always buys a lot of merchandise when she shops there, called this week to ask the owner to set aside some items for her because she was going to be in town. On Wednesday one of the latter group - a woman from Kansas City, Mo. - stopped in the store during her second trip to Paducah.

Cassity said the store also sees customers during the American Quilter's Society Quilt Week and when riverboats stop in Paducah.

Two more recently-opened boutiques in Paducah are in on the out-of-state action as well: Rayn Boutique at 5158 Hinkleville Road and The Treasure Tree at 934 Broadway.

Rayn Boutique was founded last September by sisters Taylor Ray and Danielle Thornsborough. Ray said most of their out-of-state customers are folks visiting local friends and family, and those who've heard about the store - and that "Paducah has some really good boutiques" - by word of mouth.

The Treasure Tree held its grand opening on June 21, and owner Katherine Thomas said the boutique saw folks from Illinois, Tennessee and Michigan among the many who attended.

"We operate mainly off Facebook. We do a lot of advertising through them, and that's where most of our customers have heard of us," Thomas explained.

Ray said one of her most loyal customers is a woman from Nashville, Tenn., who goes to Rayn Boutique when she's in Paducah. Ray said she thinks the service her store provides is what keeps that customer and others like her coming back.

"Every time she's in we're very friendly, and we always welcome her with open arms," Ray said. "And there's always something new that she can't find in Nashville."

Thomas said there's something else boutiques in Paducah offer that stores in Nashville and other larger cities can't offer: lower prices.

"I think a lot of times, in the bigger cities, they haven't caught on to the lower price point that Paducah has," Thomas said.

"In Nashville, you can go into every single boutique, and you're not going to find a dress under $80," she added.

Cassity said another aspect that attracts customers to her store, and to boutiques in general, is that it carries interesting, uncommon, high quality items that people won't find in shopping malls. 

"You're finding things that are unique," Cassity said. "And that's who we cater to. That's our niche."

The owner said Cassitys' also benefits from its downtown Paducah location, surrounded by locally owned restaurants, shops and attractions that make the downtown area special.

"It's the right mix that's going on down here and I wanted to be a part of that," Cassity said. "And we are a part of that."

Thomas said The Treasure Tree also values its place in the local community and tries to involve the community in its business practices. For example, the store is currently holding a back-to-school drive with Paducah Middle School, through which customers can get a discount off their purchases if they donate school supplies.

Cassity said while the majority of her customers have come from outside Paducah, recently she's seen more and more local people shopping in her store and others like it.

"A lot of them are just now rediscovering downtown," Cassity said.

Cassity said she expects to see more success for downtown businesses and Paducah's boutique stores, and she hopes to see 100 percent of the storefronts downtown occupied. The store owner also said downtown could "probably use some more boutiques," and she welcomes that because the businesses will make an even bigger impact together.

"It's small town in flavor, but it's big city in ideas," Cassity said of stores like hers. "In order to do boutique, you have to be on the cutting edge."

Contact Leanne Fuller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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