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Jacob and Erin Williams cut the ceremonial ribbon to open their store with the help of their children -- 5-year-old daughter Rayleigh and 3-year-old son Bentlee.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 10, 201712:00 PM EST

Georgia couple launches Buttons & Bows Clothing at St. Johns Town Center


He’s a Georgia farmer, she’s a hairstylist, and each is 27 years old. Married almost seven years, they have two young children.

Oh, yes. Jacob and Erin Williams also own a clothing store in St. Johns Town Center.

Buttons & Bows Clothing Co. opened March 1 in the wing of stores next to Nordstrom.

“I like to be busy,” said Jacob, in a polite, folksy, understated manner not uncommon in Southern rural towns.

Buttons & Bows focuses on what he calls “fashion with a Southern twist” popular with 15- to 40-year-old men and women. It also carries children’s clothing.

Of course, shoppers of all ages are welcome to shop the inventory, with labels that include Southern Tide, Southern Lure, Southern Marsh, Anchor In, Onward Reserve and Lauren James, to name a few. Southern music plays in the background.

Still stocking up, the shop sells casual wear, such as jeans, shorts, swimwear, hoodies, dresses, shoes, sunglasses and accessories for men and women, as well as Yeti coolers.

“These clothes in Georgia are a big thing,” he said.

This is the couple’s second Buttons & Bows.

The first opened about nine months ago in Hazlehurst, Ga., where they live and where Jacob is a third-generation farmer growing cotton, corn, peanuts and tobacco. The county, with a population estimated at more than 15,000 is between Brunswick and Macon.

The Williamses own four units in a strip mall. Buttons & Bows as well as Erin’s Hot Heads Salon operate there. The two other spaces are leased to tenants.

The couple bought a condo about two months ago in Amelia Island Plantation and considered a store in Downtown Fernandina Beach.

They found that rent at St. Johns Town Center was about $1,000 more a month, but “getting 10 times the traffic,” Jacob said.

Even without the outdoor sign up, Williams said traffic was steady the first week, thanks not only to location but to social media.

He said a temporary sign went up Thursday and the permanent sign should be up Monday.

The couple did much of the interior work themselves, converting the former Boston Proper store into Buttons & Bows.

“We stayed a week. I brought my tools,” he said.

The retrimming took about a week to put in “our own little touch,” Jacob said.

For example, he changed up lighting, trim and the cash wrap area, adding rustic touches.

The 2,400-square-foot store is at 4818 River City Drive, Suite 105.

They came up with the name, a process in which Jacob jokingly suggested “Dirty South Clothing.” Erin didn’t realize he made it in jest until he reassured her he didn’t mean it.

The couple met at church after graduating from different high schools. They didn’t attend college, but instead headed into business.

“I always liked the business side. I always liked the paperwork side,” Jacob said.

He made it work.

For example, he said he borrowed money from a bank to buy a strip-center unit for the hair salon and had to borrow money from another bank for the down payment. He was 24.

They recently parlayed the equity in the salon to buy three more units, now owning half of the center, and one of those units houses Buttons & Bows. The other two are for lease.

About two months ago, they bought the condo, striking a good deal through Jacob’s uncle, a real estate agent. They lease that out by the week, which covers the monthly payments with some to spare.

One of those first two banks financed the condo.

Lorrie Williams, water billing clerk for the City of Hazlehurst, and not related to Erin and Jacob, isn’t surprised by their success.

In fact, Erin is her hairdresser.

“She said Erin has many traits. She runs a full-time beauty salon. She runs a full-time boutique, and she has two small children, and they run a farm,” Williams said.

She adds Erin is “a wonderful mother; she is a very, very goodhearted person.”

And, she said, she is a wonderful hairdresser.

Williams credits Erin’s abilities to time management.

“She works really hard,” Williams said. Jacob, she said, runs the family farm and is “100 percent” behind Erin.

“I am super, super proud of them,” she said.

Jacob intends to make the two-hour drive to Jacksonville weekly to check on the inventory and the store, which is managed by Sheila Willard.

The Hazlehurst store is managed by Erin’s aunt, Pam Wooten.

The Williamses say if the Town Center store performs as well as they hope, they would like to open a store a year for five years, with the next one in Daytona.

They are from large families, he said, and also are raising their own. Daughter Rayleigh is 5 and son Bentlee is 3.

Jacob said he and Erin both like the business of clothing and opening a shop was always an idea.

He also said when he latches onto an idea he “aggravates everyone” until he figures out how to make it work.

“When I set my mind to something, I don’t want to quit,” he said.

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