Zandra Sills has been operating Zandra’s Boutique, a women’s clothing store, for 33 years now. In that time she has seen fashions change, and change again, and change again. The store is currently located at 916 S. Leighton Ave. in Anniston.
What is your connection to the Anniston area? I have lived in Anniston my whole life. I was in real estate before opening Zandra’s Boutique with my husband, Donald. Opening the boutique was his idea. Thirty-three years ago, there were not a lot of places to shop in Anniston, so he thought we could use another women’s store. He got it started, and I took it from there. Whatever I have done, we have always done together. He is my encourager.
How did you get into real estate? He was building houses, so we had a lot of houses to sell. Back in the late ’70s and ’80s, housing was really going in the area, so it was a good thing to be involved in.
What did you think when he came to you with the idea to open a boutique? I had never worked in retail before, but it sounded exciting, and it was. I had to learn on the go.
What did you have to learn? I learned the market was only open at certain times of the year, and I learned how to price things. I learned how to operate a credit card machine, and I learned not to buy too much but to buy enough.
When did your boutique move to its current location? 2017. This is our third location. We started out up at Everett Plaza, across from where the Downtowner Hotel used to be. In 1988, we built our location on Quintard, and we moved to our current location in 2017. This is supposed to be my semi-retirement, but I am working just as hard as I ever was.
What prompted the move to your current location? Things have changed over the years. There are a lot more places to shop in Anniston now. It was getting to be a big job for me to take care of such a large store, and we just did not need such a big space.
Tell us more about Zandra’s Boutique. The year we moved from Everett Plaza to our building on Quintard Avenue was a banner year in clothing sales. We sold a lot of clothing, and the business took off.
How have you stayed in business so long? We have just swung with the times. We are very specialized and sell a lot of linens in the springtime. Linen clothing is not that readily available in the big box stores.
What items do you sell? Linen, tunic tops, pants and leggings. Dusters — the jackets that come down about ¾ length — are very popular. We also sell a lot of jewelry. We do not sell that many skirts now; they are not as popular as they used to be.
How do you select what you put in your shop? By hand, myself, every garment. I go to different showrooms in the Atlanta market. It takes about a day or day-and-a-half. I will be ordering for late summer and fall in April.
Tell us about your customer base. Over the years, we have grown to have an older customer. They like very stylish and comfortable clothes that they can wear to church or work. Most customers tell me they like to come here because they find things that are different than what they can find in big box stores.
How have you seen style change? It has changed and changed and changed. Back in the day, really fancy dresses were very popular, and now dresses are more plain-looking. Now the comfort style has become very popular: tunics and pants or tunics and leggings.
What is the price range in your shop? We have things in here that are $39.99 all the way up to $99.99. Occasionally, we will have a sale. I just marked a few items half-price.
Do you foresee another move for Zandra’s Boutique? No, this will be the final location; I do not think I will be moving again.
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