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VOL. 124 | NO. 2 | Monday, January 5, 2009

Loudean’s Is Fabric of Family

By Tom Wilemon

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SISTERHOOD BUSINESS: Sisters June Taylor, seated, and Joyce Boggs  own Loudean’s in Cooper-Young. The business is named for their mother, Loudean Peak, who is pictured in the left photo with the two sisters as children.

Loudean’s is like a couch with plenty of pillows where the history of a family is enmeshed with the antique lace.

Overstuffed with fluffy fabrics and linen clothing, this tiny business at 2174 Young Ave. is where sisters Joyce Boggs and June Taylor keep the store their mother started 29 years ago.

But they’ve transformed the business and kept it current. What once was a place for seamstresses is now a shop for women-on-the-go who want their clothing comfortable and stylish.

Loudean’s has the exclusive right to sell FLAX – a linen clothing line – in the Memphis area. This 300-square-foot store is the fourth largest purchaser of FLAX clothing in the United States.

“It’s just cool, comfortable clothing, and in the South that’s all you need,” Taylor said.

Although the clothing suits a humid climate, it was founded by twin sisters in central New York. The yarn-dyed linens are designed for women from size extra small to size 24.

The price for items in the clothing line generally ranges from $38 to $88.

Keeping it in the family

The store still sells the kind of antique lace and bed linen that the owners’ mother, Loudean Peak, kept there.

Peak, who had another business called the Odd Shop, talked Taylor into opening the new business by contending that a third sister, Susie Hix, needed something to do. Hix wound up moving to Virginia.

Taylor and her mother operated the shop, which expanded into a bigger location, but they kept the Young Avenue lease and used the space as a studio.

Peak originally gave the business a fancy French name, Clotilde’s.

“A friend asked her one time why she didn’t call it Loudean’s,” Taylor said. “The friend said, ‘You have a perfectly beautiful name all by itself.’ She went down and changed it that day.”

Although business was good, Taylor and Peak closed shop in 1988 because they needed a break. Two years later Peak decided to open up again in the Young Avenue location. This time, her other two daughters joined in.

“I moved back from Chattanooga,” Boggs said. “Susie and I came to help. She had moved back from Virginia. That’s when June (Taylor) came back. We were having so much fun she decided to come be with us.”

From 1998 to 2004, the mother and her three daughters enjoyed the business because it was an escape from their extended families.

Making changes

However, the sisters realized they had to change the focus of the business when their mother, the head seamstress, began losing her eyesight.

Taylor wanted to close the business, but Boggs wouldn’t let her.

“Joyce said we couldn’t take everything away from her at once,” Taylor said.

Taylor came across the FLAX line when she was visiting a daughter in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She brought back some examples of the clothing. The family invested $2,500 and decided to test the line out at the Cooper Young Festival about seven or eight years ago. They sold it all, bought more and have been selling the clothing line ever since.

The owners all agreed to limit operating hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Limiting the hours and having three employees besides themselves keep the business from becoming all-consuming.

Besides switching the focus to the FLAX line, they decided to carry locally made purses and jewelry. Now, lace and antique linens account for only about 10 percent of sales.

Things changed for the business and the family when Peak died Feb. 14, 2004.

Taylor said the best business lesson she learned from her mother is not to be afraid.

Boggs also learned an important lesson from her mother.

“Just be friendly with your customers and treat your customers well,” she said. “Then they’ll always return.”

That type of customer service has helped the business through the current economic downturn.

“We’ve certainly had a decrease in business, but not enough to close us,” Taylor said. “We’re not a bit worried. We have a great business and customers who love us.”

Hix moved to Florida after her mother’s passing. She died last year.

A framed black and white photograph of Peak with Taylor and Boggs when they were little girls is on display in the shop. The mother and her children are all dressed in cotton.

“Mother made everything we’re wearing,” Taylor said.

The two sisters still carry on the family tradition of having fun with the business. On New Year’s Eve when they were supposed to be taking inventory they wound up sitting around a small table enjoying a pie with a couple of friends.

“If we had enough room for a kitchen, I’d serve tea,” Taylor said.

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