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John Dorroh: Melange: Two friends and a leap of faith

 

Vicki Hill, left, helps the owner of Melange, Deborah Gardner, lookover receipts at the store.

Vicki Hill, left, helps the owner of Melange, Deborah Gardner, lookover receipts at the store. Photo by: John Dorroh

 

John Dorroh

 

 

I had a friend in high school who knew from elementary school he wanted to be a veterinarian. There were animals all around his family''s farm house, and there was always a crisis, an animal dilemma. He thrived off of it.  

 

Years later, we reconnected and there he was, a successful vet with five clinics in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. Two of his five grown children have followed in his footsteps. Nice ending. 

 

And then there is the case of Barb, late forties, who is still searching for her niche in the world of work. Life seems to have thrown her an inordinate amount of curves, preventing her from being happy and stable in her work. 

 

Tim and Barb, two extremes, one happy and successful, the other one still surfing in the turbulent waves of work. 

 

 

 

Somewhere in the middle 

 

And then there''s the case of Deborah Gardner, owner of Melange, a specialty clothing store for women. Located in the Brickerton strip across from the Hampton Inn, Melange is in its new location, two doors down from its previous site.  

 

Gardner has been in this line of business for 11 years, nine of them with Melange. 

 

One of five kids, she was not born with the proverbial spoon in her mouth. 

 

"In college," she said, "I had a sewing machine and made most of my clothes. I think that comes from my dad telling us kids to work for what we had."  

 

Gardner''s story lies somewhere between that of Tim and Barb. A breast cancer survivor, she has found her niche, but it definitely wasn''t something that she planned. 

 

"In 1998 I had been doing some permanent work, mostly in personnel, and I really needed a change," she said. "I had a college friend who was living in California, and we got to visit. She had a store and was doing quite well with it. ... On the way home, I thought how nice it would be for me to do something like that." 

 

 

 

Leap of faith 

 

Gardner told me that she had zero business background, but something told her to proceed with her project. In so many ways, it was a leap of faith. 

 

"I started selling a single line of clothing, Spencer Alexis, out of my dining room. ... I wore the clothes and people began to talk about them and then started buying them," she said. She was on her way. 

 

Her husband, Kenny, built her a small building beside their house, and customers began flocking to look and buy. 

 

Next, she rented a space at the "old" Melange and eventually took over the entire building. That was 11 years ago, and now Melange is in its brand new location. 

 

 

 

Helping hands 

 

Gardner''s assistant, Vicki Hill, a former teacher with the Lowndes County School District, having taught for 35 years, agrees that there are not so many boutique stores in the area and customer service is almost a thing of the past. 

 

"We make sure that we take care of our customers," said Hill. "We make suggestions from full wardrobe down to accessories." 

 

Gardner explained to me this business is a true blessing. 

 

"My customers have been loyal to me," she said. "And I''m a firm believer in shopping Columbus first. ... We love people! My customers are like family. We laugh together, cry together ... Oh, yes ... It''s way more than a job ... truly a blessing." 

 

 

 

Accessories make the wardrobe 

 

Some of the clothing lines at Melange include Sharon Young, City Girl and Nie & Zoe. But any lady will tell you that the finest outfit is not complete without the right accessories. Melange carries those as well.  

 

The hours of operation at Melange are from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. The store phone number is 662-243-2434. 

 

Plans are being finalized for a grand opening sometime around Aug. 1st. 

 

 

 

And on another completely different note 

 

The Krystal Co. in Chattanooga, Tenn., recently announced the release of the fast-food industry''s first energy drink, the Krystal Blitz. It should be on sell at the Columbus Krystal this week. 

 

The Blitz will be served two ways: "on the rocks" and frozen. Either way, thirsty consumers will receive 20 ounces of a lemon-berry energy drink. It is a refreshing alternative to the traditional energy drinks that dominate the market. 

 

Check it out.

 

John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch.

 

 

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