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Monkee’s boutique to open Feb. 1 on Columbia’s Devine Street

krupon@thestate.com (803) 771-8308January 16, 2014 

Ever since Mike and Judy Miller met at Burnside Elementary School in Columbia five decades ago, the Miller family always has done everything together.

So it was natural that when 23-year-old daughter, Taylor, wanted to open a boutique, they all jumped in to help open and run it. “We’ve each had our little role,” said Judy Miller.

Monkee’s of Columbia, a women’s boutique that sells clothes, shoes and accessories, will open Feb. 1 at 3211 Devine St. It is a franchisee of North Carolina-based Monkee’s, which has 11 stores in North Carolina and two in South Carolina, in Greenville and Daniel Island.

Taylor Miller knew two years ago that she wanted to open Columbia’s first Monkee’s store. She even picked out a chandelier – part of the store’s required decor – in a Columbia antiques store in 2012 and hung it in her apartment as she worked toward completing her college degree.

The fixture, glass with pale pink prisms, now hangs over the store’s shoe department. “It’s like the dream has come true,” she said.

Things really started coming together last year when Taylor graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in retailing. She had interned with Pink Sorbet and, after graduation, been hired at that Devine Street shop as an assistant manager.

Taylor used that experience to learn about the retail world while making plans to open Monkee’s. She said Beth Baxley, who opened Pink Sorbet, encouraged her along the way. Monkee’s North Carolina owners also helped guide the process, from helping her develop a business plan to setting appointments for her at a buyers’ market. The process took about a year.

Taylor Miller and mother, Judy, will run the operation.

“We have similar tastes,” Judy Miller said. Those similarities – conservative, pearls and pink, among them – make agreeing on buys for the store easy.

But it also presents a challenge when it comes to diversifying the boutique’s inventory. “We realize we’ve got to be out there and be edgy, too,” Judy Miller said.

That’s where Taylor’s sister, 21-year-old Reece Miller, a senior at USC, comes in, serving as the inspiration for less conservative offerings.

“The goal for us is to have something for everybody,” Taylor Miller said.

The store’s inventory will be about 60 percent clothes and 30 percent shoes with the balance accessories, Judy Miller said. Pieces range from under $100 up to about $450 for some boots or cocktail dresses. The store will carry a range of brands, including Hunter boots, Frye, the new Trina Turk shoe line, Shoshanna, BCBG, Ali Ro, Julie Vos and Elaine Turner.

Mike Miller, who retired last year from the biotechnology field, also has been a vital part of the business, helping manage contractors, and securing the necessary licenses and permits.

(Judy Miller says she hasn’t found a place yet in the business for son, Jordan, 28, who works for a Columbia attorney.)

“It’s really has been a cool thing,” Mike Miller said of opening the store together as a family.

Mike Miller said the family looked at sites all around the Midlands before deciding Devine Street was the only option. They liked the area because of its built-in student population and the range of professionals in nearby neighborhoods who need quality clothing.

“You’ve got to have it in the right place for it to do well,” he said. “We have a great spot here.”

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