May 2016

Gigi’s Boutique: Boho Chic Bluffton

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

A comparison between the Paris boulevard Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Bluffton’s Calhoun Street seems rather far-fetched. Not so fast. While Paris’s retail mecca is crisp and sparkling, with designers occupying the storefronts hailing from Milan, Paris, London and New York, Bluffton is a bit more, shall we say, casual… thankfully. Snuggled at the heart of Calhoun Street’s galleries, shops, and restaurants is Gigi’s, a darling boutique with enough charm, style and chic to rival the boutiques lining La Seine, where sisters Emily Vaux Burden and Anna Pepper Vaux Hewett have thoughtfully curated a fashion and accessories collection perfectly suited to their stylish clientele.

“Anna was finishing college and we just had this business idea; we thought that Bluffton needed a clothing store,” said Burden, who was living in Colorado at the time. “We envisioned a store that we could go to and shop with our mom.”

Opened in 2008 with an upscale eclectic vibe, Gigi’s certainly hits that mark, and the sisters’ business has steadily grown, drawing on their natural penchant for building personal rapport with their customers. “We are just such a relationship store,” Burden said.

“We like the personal contact,” Hewett said. “We like to laugh and work with our customers face-to-face.” Those personal relationships have been vital in helping them cultivate their shop into a place where moms and daughters, aunts, grandmothers, nieces, and friends can find an array of styles: boho chic to classic, and casual to cocktail fashion, along with jewelry, accessories, gifts and shoes.

“We just really listen to our customers and we’ve evolved a lot,” Burden said. “We’ve changed according to what our customers want, and really do have something for the girl 20 years old on up. We wanted a place to shop with our mom where we wouldn’t be priced out of it. Our average price is around $70. We have $180 jeans, but we also have $40 to $50 tops. That’s the kind of shopping we do personally. We don’t mind splurging on something that we’re going to keep for a while, but it’s nice to get other things that are less expensive.”

Whether your mom is your most trusted shopping partner or more accurately described as your adversary, or you’re browsing with your girlfriends, boyfriend, husband, or sisters, the staff at Gigi’s is thrilled to assist. With three fulltime team members, four or five part-timers, and a talented merchandiser who joins the team a couple times a month, executing imaginative window displays and consulting on product merchandising, the creative juices are always flowing. Every customer can expect a warm welcome and just the right amount of help to pull it all together. With a large number of lines and styles, the shop is primarily sorted by color and is crafted carefully and deliberately during every buying trip.

To market, to market … one of the secrets to Gigi’s’ success lies in the sisters’ approach to their buying treks in New York, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. Armed with input from their customers and their staff of fashionable girls who keep them up-to-date, they have a great deal of intel informing their buying decisions. “It takes a lot of time to do all we do at market,” Hewett said. While other buyers may be taking advantage of the big city and a little me-time away from their regular work, these sisters go non-stop, discovering new lines and building relationships with designers, representatives, and manufacturers. “We’re well-balanced,” Hewett said of her partnership with Burden. “She is so business-minded and I’m a little more creative.”

The result is a lovely blend of goodies. “Like our clothes, you can find necklaces that are $80 and necklaces that are $20,” Hewett said. “It’s again, that balance. We have earrings that are $12. A teenager can find something and pay with her own money, and then her mom can find something too.”
The Gigi’s team provides support and inspiration not only for the sisters’ retail lives, but in their full, busy personal lives as well. Both native daughters of the Lowcountry, they come from a prolific, community-minded family, with their staff being an important extension of their own large families. “At this point in our lives, we definitely could not do it without them,” Burden said. “They do so much on a day-to-day basis to make this all work.”

Going on eight children between them, Hewett and Burden know they could not do what they do without their shop girls. Six of their children attend May River Montessori School, just a short walk down Calhoun Street, where they get involved as much as possible, when not tending to their families and their boutique home.

Naming the shop for their muse and very fashionable paternal grandmother, Gigi, a.k.a. Ruth Vaux, one of Sea Pines Realty’s first agents, Hewett and Burden have a great affinity for family, business and fashion, and they work hard to translate that to their shop. “I think Gigi’s is different,” Emily said. “I used to think boutiques were intimidating, not knowing if I could afford anything and not feeling really welcome. We want everyone to feel welcome in the store, and we know we have something for everyone.”

The casual, indie ambiance on Calhoun Street pairs perfectly with Gigi’s Boutique, where the Vaux sisters have created a special destination, combining hand-picked fashion with friendly service beyond compare. Occasionally posting outfits, unique pieces, and special events on their Facebook page and on Instagram, Gigi’s offers tempting invitations to visit the shop, where Hewett, Burden and their team are always listening to what their customers want and working diligently to make it happen. Decidedly charming, stylish, and chic, in the heart of Old Town Bluffton, Gigi’s is the perfect shop where moms and daughters can satisfy their personal style cravings… together.

Gigi’s Boutique is located at 40 Calhoun Street, Bluffton. For more information, please call (843) 815-4450 or visit gigisbluffton.com.

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