Specialty Gift Boutique Continues to Thrive Under 2nd Team of Mother Daughter Ownership

Melanie Johnson and her daughter Nicki left their home in Mississippi and headed to Franklin, TN for new beginnings in 2016. After knowing Sanctuary South’s previous mother-daughter ownership team of Suzi Mills and Chelsea Netter, Melanie and Nicki believed the timing to be good to try something new. “I’m an avid traveler and like to be busy. I truly needed something to occupy my mind and soul when the world shut down from Covid,” Melanie said. “The timing was right.”

The original ownership and concept of the store was more interior design-focused. Melanie and Nicki brought it to the gift shop and boutique that it is today. Inside Sanctuary South, located in the heart of Front Street in the Westhaven community, visitors will find beautiful home décor, furniture, lighting, artwork, clothing, jewelry, unique gifts, kitchen and entertaining items, baby and men’s items and numerous items made locally.

Melanie’s background in construction management helped create a love for interiors and decorating and the store seemed to be a perfect fit. “I don’t have a degree in it but I just know what I like,” she said. “I really enjoy talking with people that come into the store and finding out what they like too.”

Purchasing the store in Nov. 2020, getting ready to fill the store with more merchandise and learning to run the successful retail venture gave them plenty to do while businesses were reopening after the shutdowns.

This winter, Melanie and Nicki celebrated their 2nd anniversary of ownership of this beautiful and unique boutique and it has been an enjoyable ride! “I love how people want to stop in the store on their way to a party or gathering,” says Melanie. “This has helped me in knowing how to broaden the offerings. If you are going to a baby shower, I want to offer giftware like christening bibles, gift items or perhaps products for men like items to create Old-Fashion drinks,” she adds.

The store also wants to live up to its name of creating a beautiful space in your home. “I also want to help people make their home their own sanctuary. I know that’s where I go to make myself feel good sometimes,” Melanie says.

If a customer is looking for something specific for their home, Sanctuary South can most likely provide it for them. “We can order anything for anyone. We can’t carry everything in the store but if a customer brings in photos of a light fixture, paint to go with décor, sofas, beds, pictures, lamps, and more, we are willing to research the item and if we can get our hands on it, we’ll gladly order it in for them,” she adds. This is a wonderful service for things that might be hard to find items.

Sanctuary South also prides itself on excellent customer service. “It’s important,” Melanie says. “It’s my #1 rule. The minute someone walks into the store, we want people to be greeted. We love to talk with them. Be friends. Banter. We just want to be welcoming.”

It has been an enjoyable venture for them both. “We love helping people and who in the world doesn’t love to shop?!” Melanie laughs. “I have enjoyed every minute of it. I would have never met so many people after moving here if it weren’t for the store. Everyone has been so kind and friendly. People come from Leipers Fork, Brentwood, and surrounding areas. We try to put ourselves out there online to pull people from other parts of town. We’re just trying to make the stores as good as we can make it,” she adds.

They have also embraced gatherings and special events in the store. From wine tastings to bourbon tastings, this helps keep the flow of customers engaged and gives them an opportunity for different types of outreach. “We have a lot of inventory,” she says. “We love offering classes and different offerings to people,” she says. “My sister, who wrote the cookbook at the front of the store, will be visiting in April to talk with customers.”

Another special activity is their Once a Month Gift Bag. Nicki handles this wonderful outreach program by researching different philanthropic organizations and putting together goody bags for those in need. Each month is planned out at least 6 months in advance. One Friday a month they also donate 10% of what is made that day to a charitable organization of choice. It is a good way to be in touch with the community at large.

Melanie is grateful for the store and all it has brought into her life. “The store has been a lifesaver for me. It has given me something to do and has given me a mission. I’m a much better person when I have a mission,” Melanie says.

For more information on products, store hours and more, visit www.sanctuarysouthtn.com

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