Elizabeth Eckert recently became the new owner of Bella Boutique, 2805 W. White Oaks Dr., but has been a part of the business for her entire adult life. At the age of 18, she began working at the store for the original owner, Regina Santarelli, and later helped facilitate the sale of the business by introducing Santarelli to Natalie Allan.
“I was helping Natalie with her home-based company doing recycled sweaters, working with her on marketing and design,” said Eckert, explaining that she knew Santarelli wanted to sell the business. Eckert then put her in touch with Allen, who ended up owing it for the next 10 years.
“It started as a part-time job while I was in school and later, I managed the business,” said Eckert. “Natalie always said to me, ‘When I’m done, it’s yours.’ I had worked there for 14 years, styling people and making people feel good about themselves.”
Given her extensive experience with Bella Boutique, Eckert said buying the business “seemed like a natural thing,” although it added to the recent changes in her life. “Within the last three years I got married and had two kids,” said Eckert. “We’re kind of crazy to buy a store right now, but all I’ve ever known is hustling.”
Eckert has also had to adapt to a new way of doing business since COVID-19 has drastically changed the retail landscape. She said she was initially allowing customers to schedule private shopping times in the store, but now even that is not an option, following the governor’s recent order to close non-essential businesses. Instead, Eckert has turned to social media to stay in touch with her customer base and had to be creative with promoting her merchandise.
“We did our first Facebook live sale this week. We had a Sunday brunch event and we’re going to make it a weekly event,” said Eckert, who spent most of the following day in her car making deliveries from the Facebook live sale. “We are so fortunate that we still have a platform to do sales.”
While the new way of doing business has created challenges, Eckert said it has pushed the company to grow in another direction. She’s built an online store for merchandise and said she enjoys connecting with customers in a different way. “The community has been so awesome, they’ve rallied behind us,” said Eckert.