When Kelly Bain’s parents, Clyde and Sue Hefner, purchased Pee Wee Shop in Benton in 1970, the family was simply focused on overcoming all the challenges required to successfully open a new business.
Now 50 years and thousands of customers later, Sue’s II is set to celebrate its golden anniversary this week.
Sue’s II is now a women’s clothing, accessories and wigs boutique offering a wide array of fashionable wares. The business started as a children’s boutique in 1970 before the family opened a second location in 1980 and then added another building on Benton Public Square in 1985. The third location eventually housed the two existing businesses as the family merged them into one.
Kelly recently sat down with us to discuss the evolution of Sue’s, as well as her love for fashion and her customers. Visit Sue’s in Benton (1201 Public Square, Benton, 62812) on July 9-11 to find some great deals and help the family celebrate 50 years.
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Fifty years is quite an achievement. What do you attribute your success to?
I attribute our 50 years of success to many things. My parents paved the way with hard work, a great work ethic, dedication, consistency and integrity. We have continued to change with the times to bring our customers what they wanted to buy. We constantly were looking for new and exciting things to stock in our store. You must be innovative to have a successful business.
You originally planned this for April and had to put it on hold due to COVID-19. Did you ever have doubts that you’d be able to re-open?
We had looked so forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary. I had counted the days down for two years. April 1 couldn’t get here soon enough. We had to close the store March 21 due to the pandemic. What a disappointment for our family, but we weren’t the only ones dealing with letdowns.
How did you shift your business model to stay relevant with people?
During the pandemic it was sketchy as to when we would be able to reopen. As each day passed, we were presented with more challenges. We continued to receive merchandise daily that had been ordered six months prior, but we couldn’t be open to sell our merchandise.
I wanted to be available to our customers who buy wigs on a regular basis, so I had the store phone forwarded to my cell. I then had curb service available and special appointments. As soon as we were able to get open again, our customers welcomed us back with open arms.
What do you have planned for your 50th anniversary?
For our 50th anniversary we are planning a party in the store July 9, 10 and 11. We are giving away four $50 gift certificates. We will have special discounts throughout the store and giving away free tote/beach bags with any purchase.
You’re very active on Facebook and get great engagement from your followers. How important has social media been to the success of the store over the years?
Social media has become very important to our day to day business. People are busy and they love to shop whiles scrolling through Facebook. They love it! Times have certainly changed and we try to showcase our store to prospective customers on Facebook. Facebook has been a great platform to reach new customers for extra sales.
When selling fashion items like clothes and wigs, you’re helping people with essential items, but also helping them feel better about the way they look. How does it feel to be such an important part of people’s lives?
I was 10 years old when my parents purchased the Pee Wee Shop. Growing up in the clothing business, I have always loved fashion. I truly have a passion for fashion! I enjoy my role as a buyer, seeing what the new styles and colors are going to be six months before they arrive in the stores.
About 36 years ago I felt we needed something else or I needed to feel I had more of a purpose. We started carrying wigs in the store. This was when I felt that I had arrived at what I was supposed to do in life. I absolutely love helping people feel good about themselves. I feel like I have done my job when a customer gives me a hug and says, “thank you for making me feel pretty again.”
What has the road to career happiness been like for you? What have been some of your primary challenges and how did you overcome them?
I have always enjoyed my career. I love the friendships I have built along the way. Our customers are like family to me and I love helping people.
Joe Szynkowski is a Sr. Director for NuVinAir Global, a Dallas-based company disrupting the automotive industry. Thanks to technology, he does so happily from his home east of Marion. Email Joe@TheUpWriteGroup.com for more guidance on work happiness.