WARNER ROBINS -- The new pink sign in Commercial Circle belongs to a new shop but not a new face.
Gena DeBoe, a member of the Downtown Development Authority, has renamed Flamingo Follies to Gena Jayne: The Chic Boutique.
“We tweaked the concept and gave it a new name and a new look,” DeBoe said.
In just five months since the re-tooling and nine months since a rent dispute with the city, DeBoe’s reinvented store earned four Best of the Best Awards from Telegraph readers last month and support from city officials.
“I was amazed that in such a short amount of time, I could win,“ DeBoe said. “I wasn’t even sure people knew my (new) name yet.”
In October, city officials said DeBoe owed $4,950 in back rent. DeBoe said the rent had been paid for through invoices from repairs she’d done to the Redevelopment Agency-owned building.
DeBoe said the ordeal knocked the wind out of her sales, and she felt dispirited. She closed her doors in January.
“I had been pretty much killed off,” DeBoe said. “But my husband and people in the community pushed me to come back.”
In February, she reopened as Gena Jayne.
Sales are up at least five times over Flamingo Follies, and customers are coming from as far as Dublin specifically to shop there, DeBoe said.
“That really makes me feel good because it’s showing (the store is) more of a destination, not just an afterthought,” DeBoe said.
Because of the community support, DeBoe said she holds outreach events. She recently held an event for the Alzheimer’s Association, donating 10 percent of gross sales. More events are to come, DeBoe said.
“I strongly believe you can’t live off a community without giving back to it,” DeBoe said, inviting other Warner Robins small-business owners to also host community events.
Gena Jane is a place, DeBoe said, for Warner Robins shoppers who don’t want to wear a piece everyone has. She sells unique clothing, purses and shoes from designers around the country. “The things you’ll see here are different,” DeBoe said.
DeBoe said the store is meant to be accessible, with prices mostly between $13 and $45. The prices encourage repeat customers, DeBoe said.
“I enjoy repeat traffic and the social aspect of getting to know you,” she said.
The highest-priced items in the store are a one-of-a-kind line of purses from Texas: Raviani, which can cost more than $200.
The design of the boutique is the most visible change.
Walls that used to be pale pink with particle board peeping through have been given a gray industrial treatment that manages to live up to the “chic” name.
“Since those walls are what they are, we had to take a creative avenue here and really put in a fashion-forward look,” DeBoe said.
Dressing rooms that previously had flamingo and tropical forest shower curtains have been moved, made bigger and are draped with a shimmering maroon curtain.
And the storefront sign is easily the most noticeable in Commercial Circle. In large black block letters outlined in hot pink, it broadcasts the new store name with a couple of fashion icons.
“It’s like the sign has made people go, ‘How do I get involved,’ ” DeBoe said, adding some shop visitors are actually looking for information on how to open businesses in Commercial Circle.
Smaller repairs are also ongoing, DeBoe said. The repairs were a large part of the disagreement between the city and DeBoe last year.
While the city has helped with a couple small repairs, DeBoe and her husband have begun patching the roof and putting in baseboards themselves. They’ve spent about $1,000 in raw materials, DeBoe said.
“It wasn’t like it was broken,” DeBoe said. “It was just not finished in the first place. So we’re trying to do that a bite at a time.”
DeBoe said the Redevelopment Agency and city have not pursued the back rent issue.
Gary Lee, executive director of the RDA, said DeBoe is paying the back rent added to her monthly rent, but DeBoe said she isn’t.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen said he’s happy DeBoe decided to stay in Commercial Circle. He likes the new concept so much he bought his wife’s birthday present there in March.
“People ought to go in there and shop and look around,” he said. “I guarantee they’ll find something for someone in their families.”
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.