To the Ladies: Clothing boutique celebrates 25 years of serving customers
NATCHEZ — “Don’t go out of business until I die,” said Jeannette Feltus as she walked away with her crisp new outfit from Katie’s Ladies Apparel Thursday afternoon.
Feltus, like many of Katie McCarstle’s customers, has been a shopper at Katie’s Ladies since the business opened on March 7, 1994, Feltus said.
“My niece (Marjorie Hawkins of Nashville, Tenn.) always orders from Katie because Katie has more of what she likes,” Feltus said. “They make shopping a pleasure.”
Over the last 25 years, Natchez may have seen businesses come and go, but Katie’s Ladies has stood steadfast through the years.
McCarstle said her store has stayed open for 25 years with little drastic changes to the marketed audience. Instead, McCarstle said she owes her success to a long list of faithful customers who regularly drop in and chat like old friends.
“I’ve always said, running a clothing store is like being at a cocktail party all day long — without the booze,” McCarstle said. “All you’re doing is talking to ladies and having a good time. Most of the ladies who come into the store come here happy. … That makes this a fun job.”
When McCarstle resigned after 15 years working as a manager at the Eola Hotel, she decided to live out a life-long dream of hers — to open an upscale, women’s clothing establishment.
To fulfill that dream, McCarstle and her husband, Clift McCarstle, bought and renovated the old Britton and Koontz Bank on Liberty Road.
The building they purchased still had bank teller cages, poor plumbing and no dressing rooms, but — with the help of her husband’s handy work — McCarstle said she was soon ready to open.
She started out with the help of only two employees, Jeannie Sanguinetti and Mary Katherine Jones-McDonald — who was only 14 years old at the time — and a small selection of clothing, McCarstle said.
“We opened with very limited inventory,” she said, “and over the years we grew, and as we grew my inventory grew. It just evolved, becoming bigger and better.”
Ida Whetstone, a friend who had worked in retail, accompanied McCarstle to her first retail market in Dallas, Texas, and continued to help her for a decade, McCarstle said.
Now, McCarstle said she works closely with her right-hand woman, Angela Gibson. For the last three or four years, McCarstle said she and Gibson have accommodated out-of-town customers by taking internet orders that are shipped across many Southern states.
Apart from catering a little to the modern tastes in fashion, McCarstle said she operates her store the same way she always has for the last quarter of a century, by giving it her 100 percent best effort.
“You just give it your 100-percent best, work as hard as you can, and hopefully you’ll have a happy husband who will help you,” she said. “(Clift McCarstle) has been our plumber and our carpenter, so we’ve been blessed to have him. … It’s not easy work.
“We’ve been extremely blessed. There have been highs and lows because our economy has had its highs and lows in Natchez. We’ve seen the good times and the bad. We’ve had some lean years. … Our familiar customers — our locals who have been with us since the beginning and continue to support us today — are our blessing.”