A part of Main Street Southaven for the past few years, Akili’s Rewind Design Boutique honors the daughter of a three-time cancer survivor who wants her business to succeed, but wants at the same time to make sure customers of all stations in life can have new clothes.
Mary Lawson, owner of the shop in the Village Plaza at 1758 Main Street, just east of Highway 51 in Southaven, said she is a pharmacist by trade, but got caught with the flea market bug, which led to the store opening in the strip center.
“I float with Walgreen’s as a pharmacist and have been doing that for 17 years,” Lawson said. “My husband was a truck driver, but I stayed at home and made baskets and I started making floral arrangements. One of my friends came over and told me I should go to a flea market and set up. Once at a flea market on Third Street in Memphis one weekend I set up in a little red Nissan sitting on the car and I made $1,800.”
Her husband has since become a minister and now pastors a church near their home.
Lawson’s flea market success led to another pastor suggesting she start a shop in Southaven, although she lived, and still lives, in Collierville, Tenn.
It was while she was doing flea markets Lawson learned how much the markup on items was preventing some people from buying the items they wanted and needed.
“I started looking into the cost of stuff and how people were overcharging people, really, really marking it up at places,” Lawson said. “I don’t try to make another $30 like some other people. I have some stuff in here, like $18 shirts that are at other boutiques $48. It’s the same brand that I have, the same brand.”
Soon after settling into a location in the Village Plaza, Lawson was able to move her store to her current location, a spot that has more space for her clothes and accessories.
When Lawson cannot man the space due to her Walgreen’s duties, she has a friend who comes in to take care of it and her daughter Akili, for whom the store is named after, will also cover some of the hours the shop is open.
“Akili is the name of my daughter and her name in Swahili means ‘intelligent’ and ‘wisdom’,” Lawson said. “Rewind means I was going to use re-used clothes and design is because Akili paints and we can change the look of clothes by adding stuff to it. Boutique is for the new stuff, so the name is Akili’s Rewind Design Boutique.”
Lawson has already found success in life, having been a cancer survivor on three separate occasions.
“I had breast cancer in 1999 when I had Akili and then in 2007 I had breast cancer and colon cancer at the same time,” Lawson said.
With her life experiences, Lawson said she wants to “bless” people who come in.
“My goal is for people that normally cannot afford the different things, they can afford it here,” Lawson said. “This is not my living, but it is building for my retirement. I’m here to make money too, but if you come in here and I want to bless you with something and if I want to say you can have this, you can have it,” adding she has been known to “bless” women with wedding gowns and funeral dresses, if she felt led to do so.
A way Lawson said she helps her customers comes from offering a layaway plan at a cost of only a penny.
“I don’t give them a certain amount they have to put down, but they need to come in within two weeks and pay for the layaway to let me know you’re serious about it,” Lawson said.
Another way is by rewarding customers for shopping in her store through a Loyalty Points plan.
“Loyalty is for every dollar spent you get a point,” Lawson said. “When you get to 100 points, you get $10 off. I work with them with the loyalty points as much as possible.”
For Lawson, owner of Akili’s Rewind Design Boutique, her life reward surviving through cancer has inspired her to reward her customers who support her in business.
“I try to make it as personable as I can,” Lawson said. “I try to know their names and give them a good feel. That’s why people say they come back. Everybody has his or her own way of making it, but this is not my living. I’m just trying to help people.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.