By AMANDA KIMBLE
Editor’s Note:The Flash’s Amanda Kimble sat down with area business owners who’re doing a big business in our community. Check out the first of several pieces that feature local boutiques making a name for themselves in the link below:
STEPHENVILLE (August 26, 2016) – In about a year, Back At The Ranch Boutique and it’s proprietor, Katie Hoffman, will celebrate a decade of doing business in a fiercely competitive – and oftentimes disappointing – market. While Stephenville has seen many boutiques come and go, Hoffman’s is one of only a few that has survived. The shop, which recently relocated to University Plaza at 2109 West Washington Street (next door to Papa John’s Pizza), is a mainstay for its constantly expanding customer base. At the same time, the boutique maintains a successful online business, catering to clientele across the state and beyond.
Offering an eclectic mix of merchandise, Back At The Ranch (BATR) has was built up as “A Funky Boutique With Rock ‘N Roll Cowgirl Soul.” It offers a little something for the fierce side of every woman’s personality and more. Hoffman’s panache for purchasing and ability to eye the hottest trends add to her recipe for success, but she says the credit is due to her upbringing and loyal customers.
Days after the boutique, previously located in the Bosque River Center, moved into the new storefront that more than doubled BATR floor space and more than tripled square footage, The Flash sat down with Hoffman, who dished about the business and building of a dream.
The Flash: Tell us about the early days.
Hoffman: Before we opened Back At The Ranch in Stephenville almost 10 years ago, it was inside of a restaurant. My husband Chris and I owned Lone Star Barbecue in the old Rotary Building in Dublin and had the boutique set up in there. For me and Chris, the restaurant was our first business, but I was raised by entrepreneurs.
Hoffman graduated from Tarleton State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and master’s in agriculture education. After “trying” to work for someone else, she embraced her roots, realizing she was “spoiled” by her upbringing and needing to unleash her creativity. She said her grandfather was also an entrepreneur who founded a company that made traffic signals and then formed a second company that installed them. Her mother, Kay Sanders, who she called “a supermom” was – and still is – creative and crafty. She made her children’s clothes, served as class mom and headed up the PTA.
The Flash: Are you saying you took the easy way out by choosing to work for yourself?
Hoffman: (Laughs) Not at all. Unlike most careers, this is an around-the-clock job. When you own your own business, you have to bring it home with you, especially in the day and age of social media. For me, the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives, but this is my life. I eat, sleep and breathe retail.
But I do get a break, because I was lucky enough to find someone I could trust, someone who shares my vision, Hannah (Smith) Wilson. She’s my yin and I’m her yang. Our lives are so much the same, she’s just 10 years younger than me.
The Flash: What are some of the secrets to running a successful boutique?
Hoffman: Buying is hard. You have to be able to cater to all of your customers, which sometimes means buying things you don’t necessarily like. But Hannah is a big help, I go to her for opinions when I can’t decide if I should or shouldn’t buy something.
Running a retail business is something you have to have a calling to do, you don’t just get into this business because it’s fun and easy. If that’s your motivation, chances are it won’t last and you won’t be happy.
Really, the customers are the reason I’ve been so successful. That’s why I am such a stickler for customer service and why I’m focused more on the people who come into this store – tangible customers – than I am on social media.
When they walk in, I want them to light up. I want to make people smile and feel good. Retail therapy is real, and keeping a good reputation with customers – and the community – is a big deal.
The Flash: How do you feel about the new location?
Hoffman: We had been looking to relocate for a while and came across a few options, but I knew we had to have the right spot. Location is very important, people will not always go out and find you. This is a great spot, visible and near Tarleton. But, when we were coming to look at this building, Chris told me to keep an open mind. It hadn’t been occupied in years and needed a lot of work.
For a second, I thought he had lost my mind, but I walked in and found a large space, a blank canvas. Before the move, we had the old store in the Bosque River Center, which I loved, and a separate warehouse where mom made the car scents (air fresheners that are big seller at BATR). Now, she’s here, making the air fresheners all day long in the back, and with everything under one roof, it just feels like home.
Hoffman, who was raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is one of many Tarleton State University alumni who stayed and made Stephenville home. Chris is also a transplant, from Whitesboro, who followed Katie to the Cowboy Capital, where he works in the real estate industry. The couple’s daughter Carlee, 6, is a student in Huckabay and works “as hard as the big girls” at BATR.
Hoffman said with the new location in close proximity to the university’s Memorial Stadium, and she plans to hold tailgate parties and other university-centered events at BATR, welcoming fellow Texans to the store.
Hoffman: I’m a (Tarleton State University) Texan until I die, and I love being right here. I always say this was all built by Stephenville and Tarleton – it’s their store.
For more information, including store hours, a link to the BATR website, daily inspiration and a glimpse at some of the newest merchandise, join the almost 130,000 fans who follow the shop on Facebook. But, make sure to take the time to stop by to see the new store, its glittery floors and so much color and cool merchandise, you can’t help but smile.