By Gates Porter
Forced to flee the Gulf in the wake of the recent BP oil spill, Michelle Lee certainly knows what it is like to abruptly leave a place she loves. “Following the oil spill, the beach was desolate,” she said, “and after years of bracing myself for flight in the face of the periodic threat of hurricanes, this was basically the last straw.”
But she likewise understands the joy of homecoming, as the departure from her retail location in Florida brought her back to her original home and place of business, Mountain Brook, and along with it the citizenry whose patronage she had cherished for many years. Anyone who has lived in Mountain Brook throughout the last few decades will now familiarly glimpse the establishment back from its 13-year absence, situated in its former location in the small shopping center on the corner of Euclid and Church Street.
Michelle has always been heavily involved in the business of retail in Birmingham, working at Village Sportswear in Mountain Brook Village before establishing Michelle’s. However after years of working for someone in retail, she wished to pursue her dream of owning her own store. “I really enjoyed the idea of owning my own store, ordering the particular products with which to stock my shop, and personally creating a unique atmosphere that people would associate with my establishment,” Lee said.And create a memorable atmosphere she has; Michelle’s, floored with wall-to-wall cobblestone and gravel and with bright pink decorations, certainly possess a unique feel to it. Indeed, according to Lee, “People who enter the store are always commenting on its ‘peaceful’ feel”.
While the recent economic recession yielded a deleterious impact on many small businesses in Mountain Brook, Michelle’s managed to heartily survive the pressures of the poor fiscal climate. Lee attributes this primarily to the particularity of her store’s wares, to her perpetually loyal customer base that she herself considers “family“ and to the natural forces that drive the spending habits of the average customer in a tight-wallet economy. During the months of the recession, Lee judged that the customers who entered her store to browse her regular selection of luxury wares longingly perused out of their own personal yearning for a “pick-me-up” item to crave their stifled needs.
Recent uplifts in the economic condition have began to bolster the confidences of previously wary consumers, which, coming to full fruition in the past few months, caused this recent holiday season to be one of the store’s most successful periods in terms of items sold and money made.
“I believe that people are tired of not spending money,” she said. She actively observed an increase in both the number of customers browsing her shop andthe amount of money spent on her items in the wake of the recession.
Additionally, throughout the recession Michelle’s continued to steadfastly make annual charitable contributions to women in South Africa and the Philippines, who at the end of every year receive the store’s unsold items.
Michelle’s caters primarily to a crowd looking to purchase bath and beauty luxury items. However, Lee also toils to fill her store with products that provide the highest comfort for the consumer. “Michelle’s is all about comfort,” she said. “People come in here to buy PJs that feel good, candles that smell good.” According to Lee herself, the item in the shop that has in highest demand since its introduction into her wares twenty years ago continues to be the bubble bath product. Its popularity is heavily predicated upon its range of price, from $3 to $50 for a single bubble bath.
Lee also makes it a priority to continuously update the wares in her store with new items being introduced monthly. Indeed, new items displayed in the shop this month include specialized treats for Easter baskets and Easter-themed bath salts. Lee has also begun to make preparations for Mother’s Day, planning to introduce a new type of soap to her merchandise just in time for the holiday.
For more information on Michelle’s, visit www.michellesincrestline.com.
81 Church Street