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VOL. 122 | NO. 102 | Monday, June 4, 2007

New Shoe Boutique Proves South Main District Has More Than Art

By Rosalind Guy

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A PERSONAL TOUCH: Tyiese Scarpa employee Patricia Robinson rearranges merchandise at the South Main store. The boutique opened in late March and has seen a steady increase in business. -- Photo By Rosalind Guy
Tyiese Scarpa
Owner: Cassandra Ferguson
Opened: March 2007
515 S. Main St.

The South Main Arts District is growing as a shopping destination, especially for women, with the presence of unique boutiques. In addition to the numerous art galleries, retailers in the historic district offer everything from gift baskets, flowers and wearable art to trendy, fashionable clothing and high-end shoes.

One of the newest additions to the area, Tyiese Scarpa, adds to the shopping experience with its high-end shoes and accessories. The boutique opened its doors in late March.

Former Memphian Cassandra Ferguson, who lives in Atlanta, opened the store after researching and building a relationship with vendors who offer the types of shoes she wanted to sell. The store's name, Tyiese Scarpa, is a combination of Ferguson's middle name (Tyiese) and the Latin word for shoes (Scarpa).

The concept for the store stems from a passion she said she always has had.

"I love shoes," Ferguson said. "I'll buy a pair of shoes before I'll buy an outfit."

Drumming up business

Ferguson is banking on other women's love for funky and chic footwear to boost business.

Tyiese Scarpa offers shoes and accessories from designers such as Sergio Rossi, Celine and Ed Hardy. The Ed Hardy line offers a limited edition Elvis Presley design.

And with the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death just a couple months away, Ferguson said the Elvis shoes have been a hot item.

So far, business has been going well, Ferguson said. But, once word gets out, she said she expects business to pick up even more.

One way she plans to get the word out is a wine and quiche brunch at the store June 16. Ferguson also participated in the Couture for the Cure Fashion Show held over the weekend. The fashion show, which was held at the Gibson Showcase, was a fundraising event for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

'Something different'

Ferguson started the process of opening the store more than four years ago while she was an attorney at the Memphis office of Armstrong Allen PLLC. Her legal work ultimately took her to Atlanta, but the desire to open a boutique in Memphis did not waver.

"I started working on it, doing research for the store four or five years ago," Ferguson said. "(At that time) I lived in Memphis and I lived Downtown. I know there's (other stores), but we kind of needed something different, something that would give everybody an option."

Ferguson has been working closely with vendors, a process she said can be difficult at times. For example, the vendors require her to have a storefront and some even required her to send pictures of the store so they could see where she'd be selling the shoes.

The number of upscale boutiques in Memphis is growing. Peria's opened in Midtown earlier this year. Store owner Peria Gober offers shoes from designer brands such as BCBGirls, Poetic License and Lulu Guinness.

Another shopping destination opened in April on Main Street, The Runway Boutique. The store offers contemporary designer clothing and accessories.

Though there are already a number of boutiques in the Downtown/Midtown areas offering what the businesses tout as "high-end shoes," Ferguson said she sets herself apart by offering merchandise from lines that aren't offered elsewhere in Memphis.

Because of the different lines offered in each boutique, Ferguson said she believes the stores can complement each other rather than compete for business.

"My shoes are so different and some of my vendors like Pellini, Barbara Bui and DSquared, I'm the only one selling those," Ferguson said. "Some of my shoes are just so different. You kind of got a funky, kind of chic look and I think that again, not only will the Downtown demographics support it, but once the word gets out around Memphis, you'll have those people that will come and will want those shoes."

Ferguson has a Web site still under construction, www.tyiesescarpa.com. In coming weeks, Ferguson said she hopes to have the site up and running.

Ferguson is in the process of moving back to Memphis. In the meantime, she makes regular trips from Atlanta to work in the store.

Currently, the store is open Thursday through Sunday, a decision that was based on the fact Monday and Tuesday tend to have lighter traffic and that Ferguson must travel the almost 400 miles from Atlanta.

Once Ferguson moves from Atlanta, the store will be open Wednesday through Sunday.

PROPERTY SALES 81 201 16,108
MORTGAGES 40 104 10,026
BUILDING PERMITS 130 336 38,272
BANKRUPTCIES 28 56 7,528