By Michael Reisig
Two of Mena’s younger entrepreneurs have been showing the way for others to be successful, and in the process, they are building and enhancing our business community. In the last couple of years, sisters Laci Miner and Lori Bonner have opened clothing and accessories boutiques in Mena, and with hard work, dedication, and a good deal of business savvy, have managed not only to survive in this challenging economic situation, but flourish.
The Rage boutique, owned by Laci Miner and located at 818 Mena Street, offers the latest clothing and accessories for women and men. Miner was born in Texarkana but her family moved to Mena when she was eight. She attended Mena High School and graduated there in 2007. It was about that time that her father opened Hog Country Cycles just outside town and she helped her father establish and run that business for the next three years. But in the process she was already laying plans for her own business.
“This really came about because I got tired of having to go out of town to shop,” Miner recalled. “In the process I started buying the very popular ‘Miss Me’ jeans wholesale and selling them in my father’s cycle shop, and they really sold well. I went to the Dallas Market Center, basically called ‘Market’, to buy them and this opened my eyes as to what was out there in styles and designs at affordable prices. In January/February of 2010, I actually began watching for a location. I ended up looking at where Karen’s was on Mena Street and The Rage was born.”
“In March of 2010 I went to Market and placed orders, and on April 12, we opened the doors – after renovating, getting shipments in and setting the store up,” Miner explained. “The whole idea was to offer a variety of clothing and accessories that would appeal to everyone. I carry the classics but also some very trendy, fun styles. We carry dresses, tops, jeans, T-shirts, shoes, boots, flip flops, and collegiate wear, as well as candles, select furniture items, decorative art, and wall hangings.
About a year later Lori Bonner opened “The Elle Boutique” at 609 Mena Street – a sharp, upscale-looking operation with quality accessories for everyday and special days, at affordable prices.
Like her sister, Bonner was born in Texarkana. She graduated from Mena High School in 2009.
“I knew I loved fashion, but I didn’t really know what aspect of that I wanted to settle into,” she explained. I wanted to find a niche here and bring fashion to Mena. In the interim I worked for Hibbett Sports in Mena and their store in DeQueen as manager. Eventually, I returned to Mena to manage the Hibbett store here.
“I finally left because I wanted to do something for myself, to invest in myself,” Bonner said. “Ultimately I felt I could contribute to the economy here and to the ‘downtown vibe’ that would enhance main street. That was when the concept for The Elle was born.”
She eventually found a location on Mena Street across from The Ouachita Theatre.
“Our plan was and is, to compliment each other, with Laci selling clothing and my store offering the accessories,” Bonner explained. “Although we’re not located together, we encourage people to purchase what they need from Laci, then come down the street to my place and get their accessories – supporting local business. My goal in products is to provide quality at reasonable prices and to bring in items that people go out of town to get, or normally buy on the Internet.”
When they talk of their success, Laci said they’ve created relationships with people.
“If you have a good relationship with your customers it’s just as important as having good products,” she explained. “I feel like Lori and I have created a hub for shoppers in this area and people are actually coming here from Hot Springs and Fort Smith to shop.”
Lori said, “ They are finding us on the Internet through our website and other social medias, and our products and prices are what’s drawing them to us. We hope to inspire other businesses to follow our lead and take a chance – follow through. You have to be willing to ‘tweak’ your business as you go along – evaluate what’s working and what’s not – being constantly willing to please your customers.”
“But you have to set reasonable goals and long-term goals,” Laci added. “We feel like we’ve added something valuable to the community in products, and we offer suggestions to clients that help all our fellow businesses, from restaurants to places to stay. Our websites have become valuable tools and we strongly recommend every business have one. Ours draws us business from around the state.
Lori added that she and her sister want to see our community grow, and they encourage new businesses to go out and take a chance, but never to forget the value of reasonable goals, sensible approaches, and hard work.