This post was originally published on Hello Jackson on August 19, 2013.
Nestled among the bustling restaurants and big box stores on Vann Drive, you can find one of the best local women’s clothing and accessories boutiques in town. Mam’selle is located right next to Starbucks and carries a huge selection of gorgeous pieces from dresses to handbags to candles.
Mam’selle is home to many well-known designer lines including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Hobo, Frye, and the recently added Kate Spade. In addition to an ever-changing selection of clothing, they carry jewelry by local designers Ellen Hays (Jackson) and Debbie Segal (Memphis). What Mam’selle is widely known for is its large variety of denim lines. Owner Debbie Swacker says, “We can fit virtually anyone in a pair of jeans.” These aren’t just any jeans either. These are high quality jeans that will last for years!
One of the best things about shopping at Mam’selle is that there is something there for just about everyone. Swacker says that their clients range from an eleven-year-old girl to a woman in her 80s. They also cover a good range of sizes by stocking 0 to 16 and extra small to extra large. You can find that perfect dress for a night out or a great casual top for a weekend at the lake! If you are pretty budget-conscious like myself, the amazing and always changing sale rack is a great place to start.
Another great way to shop with Mam’selle is to come to one of the trunk shows. These events allow customers to view an entire line from a designer, rather than just items chosen by the store, and purchase exactly what they want. Often the designer will be present at the trunk shows, which is a great treat for customers! Debbie says, “We are most proud of the fact that Mam’selle is the only specialty retailer in the country to have hosted a Marc by Marc Jacobs trunk show, and we have hosted two of them.” Marc Jacobs has long been one of my favorite designers, so this is especially impressive to me! I can also remember them having a Frye trunk show, which is a fantastic line to shop for boots.
Mam’selle is a name that you’ve probably already heard around town because it has a pretty extensive history in Jackson. Debbie Swacker was kind enough to tell me a bit of the history:
“Mam’selle was founded in the 1950s and was located on Union Avenue in Memphis. During the late 60s and early 70s, the original owner partnered with others throughout the Southeast to open additional locations. Her Jackson partner was Sylvia Hills, who opened the Jackson Mam’selle in 1973, forty years ago. This partnership soon ended, and the Memphis location and all other locations eventually closed, leaving the Jackson Mam’selle as the lone surviving business. It was located on the 45 Bypass for the entire twenty-seven years of Sylvia’s ownership.
“In January 2000 Sylvia retired and sold the business to me and a partner. In early 2002 we learned of a new development being built on Vann Drive which would be anchored by Jackson’s first Starbucks, and we knew that was the place for us to begin our new era! We relocated Mam’selle to its present location in July 2002.”
I have known about Mam’selle for years, but I never knew it had such a unique story! I love that Debbie, who never intended to own a women’s retail business, was able to continue the story of this great store. Debbie’s commitment to developing relationships with her clients has made Mam’selle a great success story.
Debbie is now the sole owner of Mam’selle, and she has used her small business to give back to the community in many ways. She believes that Mam’selle has never been just about the clothes, but it exists to fulfill a larger purpose and bigger mission—that of women supporting women in any way possible. Thanks to the support of it’s customers, Mam’selle is able to give back by supporting WRAP (Women’s Resource and Rape Assistance Program) and participating annually in Runway for a Cure to support breast cancer research.
The success of Mam’selle is something that I hope will be an encouragement to all small business owners. It is apparent to me that much of the success is owed to the fabulous customers that shop there as well as the amazing staff of sales associates. Debbie was quick to praise her staff saying, “I learn from them each and every day, and I am proud of the relationships they have developed with our clients.” It is this talented group of women and the fantastic clients that make Mam’selle such a relaxed, genuine, and fun place to shop!
Kristi Woody is a photographer and storyteller for our Hello Jackson features about locally owned retail stores and restaurants. She also works as the university photographer for Union University and owns her own wedding photography business, Woody & Pearl Photography. In her free time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her husband and rambunctious beagle, Rhett and Chipper respectively. If you can't find Kristi in Jackson, you'll find her in her second favorite place: Disney World!