Photos by Libby Rogers
Joetta’s Boutique is owned and operated by Sandy Newman, a Huntsville native. She was born and raised in Huntsville and graduated from Huntsville High School in 1990. Her family has deep roots in the Huntsville area. In fact, her relatives were some of the first settlers in Walker county. “My heritage is here, and I love that, and I love having my store here in Huntsville,” said Sandy.
Her husband David Newman, who was also a long time Huntsville resident, was her biggest supporter, and always wanted her to succeed in all things, especially with the boutique, because he knew how much she loved it. He was a hard worker, and he was very proud of her and his family. Unfortunately, in May of 2019, just over 6 months after the grand opening of Joetta’s, she lost her husband in a tragic auto accident. “That changed our world,” said Sandy. “I was really fearful, and I didn’t know how the future would go for me and the kids, and for the boutique. Suddenly, I found myself solely responsible for the income of my family. It was scary, without my partner and pal. It was earth-shattering.”
Since then, her kids have become her biggest supporters. Morgan, the oldest, is now 20 and going to nursing school at Blinn, while also taking online courses at Sam Houston State University to earn her bachelor’s. “She’s a pretty busy gal, but she helps me a lot with the store,” said Sandy. And, although I know what I like, she helps me find things that are ‘trendy’ with the younger generations. She also coordinates all our photoshoots; she selects the models, helps with the outfits, and even does modeling herself, so I can look after the store. Gus, her 17-year-old, is a senior at Huntsville High school. He’s not into clothes and fashion, but he’s basically the man of the house, so he’s got a lot of responsibilities. He’s always willing to help me with whatever I need.”
Prior to opening Joetta’s, Sandy worked various other jobs. but after the birth of her daughter, she began working as a medical transcriptionist. This enabled her to work from home while raising her family. She did this for several years, until 2017. Then one day, while visiting her cousins, she remembered they once owned a boutique trailer, and asked them, “Whatever happened to your boutique trailer?” They responded, “Oh, we still have it; it’s just sitting out there behind the house, and we just haven’t done anything with it anymore.” Suddenly, Sandy realized she was very interested in buying it from them. Sandy said she got the idea in her head that she could open a mobile boutique and travel, like her cousins used to do on the weekends, to make a little extra income. The opportunity arose, and I took it. I had it remodeled and repainted, and I started going on the road to festivals and events in neighboring towns such as Spring, Conroe, Crockett, Palestine, to name a few, and even some places in East Texas!” Her first show was in 2017 in Huntsville, at the Fair on the Square and, according to Sandy, things have really taken off since then.
The traveling boutique is a 10’ X 20’ trailer. “It is the cutest thing; I love decorating it,” said Sandy. “It’s basically a mini-boutique, with a decorated ceiling, and a little dressing room at the nose of the trailer with a curtain as a divider, and it has air-conditioning. It works out great,” she added, “until you get about 20 people inside, then it can get a little crowded and a little shaky.”
Her husband David and daughter Morgan would always go along to help her set up the trailer. It’s really hard work, she pointed out, but with her husband helping with the setup, and her daughter assisting customers, it usually went pretty well, and they managed to have fun. “I even got my mom to go with me a few times, said Sandy, “and that’s considering these events usually take place during fall and summer, the hottest times of the year!”
It wasn’t long before customers started wanting to know if we were available online. They asked so often, Sandy stated, that it started to resonate with me, so in 2018, 6 months after opening, she got a Facebook page and had a pretty good following. Next, she decided she also needed a website. It was launched in June of 2018. Everyone seemed to be pretty excited about Joetta’s new website and online availability. At this point, Sandy decided to give up medical transcribing and dedicate fully to the boutique. She does, however, credit her “work at home” job for taking her through her children’s younger years. “I was able to do everything from home, and I didn’t have to put my kids in daycare,” said Sandy. Emphasizing how important it was to her to be able to spend as much time with her kids as possible, “Thanks to this wonderful job, I was able to do just that.” Then in October 2018, just before the holiday season, she opened up the doors to Joetta’s at the West Hill Mall. Although at first she admits feeling apprehensive, she received a lot of encouragement from her family and good friends.
Unfortunately, a little over 6 months after opening her doors, Sandy was having to deal with the loss of her husband. She acknowledges that, for a few months, she was simply unable to function, but fortunately, Sandy said she has a great support system. Her sister, niece, and daughter basically ran the store for her while she grieved. She also received a lot of support from a wonderful group of people at the West Hill Mall: The Willeys, Maura and Severo, other store managers, as well as TDCJ employees, and even a group of people she likes to call, “the walkers.” They were all here and have been very supportive since the beginning.
At Joetta’s, there is only one other employee. Shelby is a part-time employee who started back in November. “She does a great job,” said Sandy. Shelby and Morgan both manage all the social media and marketing for the store, which has been super important, especially since March when the COVID 19 pandemic began. There was talk about closing the doors, which was a little scary at the beginning of April. “I did close, but fortunately, I already had the website, and everything was available for purchase online. I was blessed. We tried to keep the momentum. I continued coming into the store, sending out orders by mail, offered curbside pickup, and would even drop off items at people’s doorsteps. We continued to advertise on social media and offered free shipping. We adapted. The website was definitely a big help.” Currently, Joetta’s has reopened as of May 1. They have continued the free shipping since many people are still not getting out and about.
Joetta’s offers everything in women’s clothing and accessories: jewelry, shoes, bags, statement earrings, scarves, home and gift items, candle products, and so much more! Some of the popular name brands that can be found at Joetta’s include: Wildrag Scarves, Makeup Junkie Bags, French Kande Jewelry (a really nice collection of jewelry made in L.A.), Turquoise and Teepee (out of Navasota), and Poor House Ranch designs (from Midway). She pointed out these are some very unique pieces no-one else carries. Other items include Tyler Candle Products, and Linn and Laurel western-inspired pieces. “My goal is to have a wide range of sizes and prices…something for everyone,” said Sandy.” Finding a balance from inexpensive to higher-end, beautiful, classy, one-line items such as Ivy Jane, Uncle Frank, Sister Mary.
Styles always come back; some of the “come back” items are scarves worn either around the neck or as headbands and vintage items. “I love anything vintage. When the kids were little, we all loved going to estate sales. When I opened the store, I used a lot of those items I bought at estate sales to decorate, which is another thing I love doing.” said Sandy. Their slogan is, “Vintage and New, Classy and Glam.” Another comeback item is bell bottoms! They came back with a bang, and ladies who wore them back in the 60s and 70s would just cringe, and say “No, don’t bring them back, but young girls love them! They think they’re the greatest thing ever. It’s funny and interesting how styles come and go.”
Sandy travels to Dallas Market and meets with vendors to order her products, apparel, and accessories. Her fall line is scheduled to arrive sometime between August and September. Joetta’s also carries plus-size items, casual shorts, jeans, denim shorts, graphic t-shirts, caps, hats, and boots. She also carries a few kid’s items: 2-T and 3-T with a western-style, as well as home items; farmhouse pictures, readers (eyeglasses), and an assortment of face masks made locally, by Lindsey Fitzpatrick. Sandy indicated they have a large variety of items for women and girls of all ages and is certain that whatever your shape or size, or style, you are sure to find something you like at Joetta’s.
When her kids were younger, they were very involved in school with FFA (Future Farmers of America), and as a supportive parent, Sandy was also a member of FFA, the Booster Club, and the Swine Club, where she was club manager for many years. “I still love to support the kids,” said Sandy, “especially this last year when local kid exhibitors were not able to showcase their animals during the fair due to COVID 19. I know what goes into preparing for this, so I try to support them through the auction.” In the community, Joetta’s participates at various events, including Fair on the Square and Diva Night, and she is currently trying to plan a trunk show. “The ladies love it,” she said, “and come from miles around to see our selection,” but you don’t have to wait! You can shop anytime online at joettas.com, or stop by the store any day, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 6 pm, or Saturdays between 11 am and 4 pm. People will always come in and call me Ms. Joetta (it’s actually my middle name), and some of my closest friends do call me Joetta. I was actually named after both of my grandmothers, Mary Jo, and Mary Etta, so it is definitely a very special name.”
As for the boutique trailer, “I still have it, I just haven’t been able to take it anywhere lately, due to COVID-19,” said Sandy. She hopes to be able to take it out on the road again sometime soon. “In the future, my goal is to be able to provide fashion and styles to ladies and girls of all ages and sizes at Joetta’s and to continue growing and improving. Besides social media, word of mouth really works,” said Sandy, “and we get a lot of positive feedback.” People come into the store all the time, and say things like, “Wow, I didn’t even know you were here! You have such cute things! I’m going to tell my friends!”
When Sandy is not at Joetta’s, she can often be found at her home out in the country, working around her house, mowing or gardening. She also enjoys playing the piano. In fact, she began playing at her church, when she was only 12. “I love my hometown, and I don’t have any desire to leave,” said Sandy.