Economic downturn spawns new shop in Olive Branch

By Toni Lepeska/The Commercial Appeal

OLIVE BRANCH — The name for the new boutique, The Purple Pickle, was a joke — at first.

Khristy Stephenson latched onto her husband’s humorous suggestion and had a sassy pickle lady created on paper to represent the boutique.

“He really didn’t believe me and thought I was crazy,” said Stephenson, 36.

Stephenson is one to see things through, though, and she opened The Purple Pickle in September, her second business.

The boutique is keeping her bills paid during a slowdown in her construction-dependent company, DeSoto Paint & Design.

“If she says she’s going to do something, she does it,” said David Mattox, a customer and family friend. “She’s done an excellent job, and the customers are coming.”

The Purple Pickle opened in space once occupied by DeSoto Paint, which operates on a smaller scale now next door to the boutique. The site, off the main drag on U.S. Highway 78 in Olive Branch, was not an ideal place for a store, Stephenson said, so she decided to make up for it by selling low.

“Lots of stores have things like us, but they have a fabulous location. We don’t,” Stephenson said. “We have to give them a reason to come.”

The store sells photo frames for $6, scarves for $8 and earrings for $4. Clothing, purses, stuffed animals, notepads, pillows and dip mixes also are sold.

“I’m not here to get rich quick,” Stephenson said. “I’m here to survive.”

Stephenson started DeSoto Paint in 1995, four years before marrying John Stephenson, whom she met while shopping at Home Depot in Southaven. She decorated model homes in subdivisions under construction and had 100 employees.

As the economy declined and demand for housing slowed, her business took a hit. The number of employees has fallen to fewer than 10. Her husband was operating All About Hardwood, but the decline in income threatened the building the couple constructed for their work.

The space was half paid for. Stephenson didn’t want to lose it.

“We’ve lived off our savings the past year and a half,” she said.

Stephenson decided opening a boutique might help out the family with four children, ages 10 to 19.

Her husband suggested “Puffer’s Purple Pickle.” Puffer is Khristy Stephenson’s nickname.

“That’s a mouthful,” she told her husband. “Let’s drop Puffer’s.”

Stephenson, who gets help from her children, constructs some of the gifts available for purchase at The Purple Pickle.

“They’re very innovative people,” Mattox said. “A lot of things she figured out she can make herself. She’s very, very creative.”

“Love The Purple Pickle,” said Olive Branch resident Stacy Henson, a regular customer who likes being treated “like family” there. “I’m sold on it.”