Deb & Co. in the Jasper Mall already has gotten an early Mother's Day present: An increase in store sales after recently opening up in expanded space at the mall.
"We had our best Easter we've had in years," said store owner Deb Langley of Jasper. "We had a really good Easter."
Langley said in an interview Monday that about five weeks ago the gift boutique store moved down a few spaces to the old rue21 space across from Hibbett Sports. The 6,000 square feet in the current space is more than double the space available to her in the last location.
Langley has seen as many changes as anyone at the mall, as she said she started at Snow's Cards and Gifts in the mall in November 1981, which opened only a couple months after the mall opened.
"They had 13 stores across the Southeast," she said. "I worked for them out of this mall for almost 25 years. There was actually a Mr. Snow. It was a family-owned business and they started in Vestavia Hills. The Mr. Snow I worked for, it was his dad that started the business in the '30s and '40s." Another Snow was about her age, making the third generation.
Finally, the middle Snow wanted to retire and the younger Snow didn't care to continue the business - two mall stores were left, including Jasper and downtown Birmingham - as leases were expiring.
"So when they were done here, I bought the store in Jasper and evolved it into a little something different," Langley said.
Her store was started 13 years ago, in Jan. 3, 2006, she said. Today the store draws from Walker County and beyond. "We have a lot of regular customers from Winfield, Double Springs, Tuscaloosa, Northport, Gardendale and others. We have been very blessed." The store ships every day to customers on request and offers complimentary decorative gift bags.
The store is currently preparing for Mother's Day customers this week, preparing some gift bags in advance before an expected onslaught of customers starting Thursday.
Langley said the store had been talking about an expansion for years, even tearing down a wall that separated it from the old Radio Shack space. However, ownership changes at the mall kept things kept things up in the air, with new people to talk with, until the new space became available to ignore tearing down a wall.
"When we were ready to renew our lease, this space was available," she said. "It didn't require tearing down any walls, which I was a fan of."
She said she loves all the front glass, although it did require renovations, which started in early February. (Some touches in the back area are still underway). One enters and finds a whiter, brighter layout, with more room to maneuver, anchored in the middle with gray walkway and a gray counter, flanked with white floors, walls and ceiling.
"It turned out just like we wanted it and we're really happy with it. The customers seem to be very appreciative and excited for us," she said. She later explained the old store was "too packed" for customers, denying visibility to see product placements.
"We can now display it better," Langley said. "We have room for the mommas pushing those baby strollers. They are not afraid to bring the babies. I've had them tell me that. They are more comfortable. If we've made the customer more comfortable, that's a win for us. That means they are going to come and spend time more often, hopefully."
That appears to be proven, as Langley said foot traffic is up "10 or more" percent and sales have increased by 8 percent for this calendar year over the year before.
"We've always had the best customer base," she said, including repeat customers and those who come from the surrounding area. "You never hear anything positive about the mall. We have maintained our foot traffic and our business through all of this."
The expansion did lead to some new products. Tyler Candles and Glamorous Wash is one, with emphasis on the wash. She said she never thought she would be selling laundry detergent.
"It's a hot thing," she said, saying it is trending up and is probably the most exciting product in the store at the moment. "This is a laundry detergent that makes your clothes smell good like candles," she said. "It comes in different fragrances. Diva is by far the most popular."
Another new brand, Puppy Love, sells T-shirts and accessories, while donating 10 percent of its profits to rescue centers and adoption agencies. Joy Susan Bags offers upscale handbag designs at discount prices.
She will continue using other brands from the past, including Simply Southern, Jadelynn Brooke, Jane Marie Jewelry, and Campus Collection Licensed Collegiate Tee's. Children apparel will be offered for new born up to size 6 and sizes up to 10 for girls coming this fall. Some of those brands will include Millie Jay, 3 Sisters, Isabella and Chloe, Angel Dear, Serendipity Kids, True, Southbound Clothing Co., Mud Pie and Sage & Lily.
"We have 300 plus vendors in the store," he said.
A number of spaces in the mall are empty, some due to nationally struggling chains. Subway, which closed 1,000 stores last year, apparently is the latest to close in the mall, with the mall location missing from the company website. Two more locations are still in Jasper.
Still Langley said she is hopeful about the future of the mall, which still features Belk, Shoe Dept., Hibbett Sports, and others. She noted mall store owners and managers talk to each other.
"Everyone I talk to, (their) sales are good," she said. "We may not be making 30 percent increases, but everyone I've talked to, they are making their numbers plus a little."
The store continues to employ five employees under her, including her husband, Mark, and her daughter, Wendy Frasher, and niece, Lynn Mullinax.
Deb & Co has Facebook and Instagram accounts, with over 25,000 people on the Facebook page. The phone number is 205-221-3950. The business is open during the regular mall hours of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays.