photographs by Marci Lambert
Anna Avant had a defining moment as she turned 30. Then employed as a risk analyst at a bank, she awoke one morning and wondered, “How did I end up here?'" Soon after, she confided her dream of opening a clothing store to her husband. Her passion for fashion was no secret, but Anna wanted to share the kind of clothes that fed her own sense of style while honoring the entrepreneurial spirit that runs in her family.
Two years later, her dream was realized with the opening of Hoot + Louise, an ecelctic shop featuring new and up-cycled vintage clothing for adults and kids. “I like clothing that’s unique, that looks like art,” says the 34-year-old mompreneur.
Anna appreciates clothes that wear comfortably, are made with eco-friendly processes, and are infused with artistic flair. She avoids mainstream markets, discovering treasures made by small, independent businesses instead. Her well-curated selection includes the organic Synergy line that’s popular with active moms. The Snoozer Loser line is handmade and hand-printed with eco-friendly dye. Anna is also the city’s exclusive carrier of Synergy and Snoozer Loser clothing. For the preschool crowd, you’ll find the organic cotton and linen goods by Zebi Baby (sizes three months to 3T), which makes cute bum covers, kimono-wrap onesies, and soft organic tees for tots.
A fan of vintage, Anna offers vintage-inspired clothing as well as true vintage from the ’20s to the ’80s. While in banking, she often arrived at the office wearing vintage ’70’s secretary-style dresses. “My vintage clothing has to be wearable, not costumey,“ she says. On my visit, I find ’70s toddler playsuits and vintage shoes. In the ‘man cave,’ are vintage swim trunks, ties, and button-up shirts for guys. There’s also fresh, modern jewelry by local artists. With her chic short hairstyle and linen dress, Anna looks every microfiber the stylish clothing store proprietress she is. Her store’s name is a tribute to her beloved granny, Louise ‘Hoot’ Williamson, who smiles from black-and-white photos around the shop. Anna has fond memories of playing dress-up at her home in Greenwood, Mississippi. “I could do no wrong at Granny’s house,” she says with a laugh. “I had complete control over her closet, she even let me play with her nice jewelry.” When Anna held her grand opening on September 24, 2010, Granny came to help out and celebrate.
“Starting my business was definitely risky, but retail is always risky. It’s in my blood to be entrepreneurial. My dad is an electrical contractor who has his own company. Granny and Granddaddy had a reupholstering and furniture refinishing business and they sold antiques. When I was with them, I played with the cash register, and rearranged stuff.’’
So being housed in South Main’s Historic District is a fit. “For me, it's the perfect spot. Trolley Night brings in lots of people. I got help from the Downtown Memphis Commission with a retail forgivable loan. That was definitely an incentive. My husband Ben was supportive and believed in me and that we could make the business successful.’’ In the early stages, Ben stayed up all night to help Anna write her business plan. Now he pitches in to assist with marketing, builds clothing racks, even changes light bulbs and watches their year-old son, Finch. On Fridays, when her toddler comes to the shop, he plays in the store, just like his momma once did. We think Hoot would approve.