Career Spotlight: Nikki Payne

HER Profile / Stories / September 19, 2014
Nikki Payne, owner of A Fine Mess and The Snob Shop Exchange

Nikki Payne, owner of A Fine Mess and The Snob Shop Exchange (Keith Borgmeyer photo)

Born and raised in Jefferson City, Nikki Payne is forging her own path in clothing retail while following a legacy of business owners in her family. Though she worked at a clothing store after high school, Payne did not possess any real interest in fashion. After several years as a receptionist at an OB/GYN clinic and later at a dentistry office, Payne “needed a change,” she said. Payne’s husband and mother- and father-in-law own businesses, and Payne has loved doing the same. After opening The Snob Shop Exchange in November of 2011, Payne had planned to open a boutique around 2016 to 2017 but she was able to fulfill her dream earlier than planned with the debut of her downtown boutique A Fine Mess.

Interview conducted by Lydia Meyer

What got you into clothing retail?
Nikki Payne: The Snob Shop Exchange was my start in retail but since the items sold at the Snob Shop are gently used items, I wanted to bring something to Jefferson City that’s more of a boutique style. We don’t have anything that’s a boutique. A lot of people drive to Columbia for that so I’m just trying to encourage people to shop locally.

Tell me about the fashion markets where you shop.
NP: We go to Atlanta Apparel Market, where there were 13 floors of 150-200 vendors per floor, which was very overwhelming but fun. We’re going to Dallas in the fall. Some items we order ship immediately, while others ship during a later season.

What sticks out to you when you see a vendor?
NP: The bright colors are really popular. They are popular again for the fall, as well. Oranges, pinks, royal blues, tomato color and mints are big for fall again. Aztec print is still big. I just look for designs that are unique and something I know they won’t be able to find here in Jefferson City.

How do you pick out clothing to sell in your store?
NP: I pick what I like. Sometimes I have to go outside of my box and select things that I wouldn’t necessarily wear but that someone else may like.

What’s it like being at the shows with the designers?
NP: It’s really fun. The designers are very helpful with their suggestions on what designs to select. There are a lot of designers at market but you don’t necessarily see them or know that it’s them. They would have fashion shows where designers can showcase their new clothing lines. The fashion shows are very overwhelming but very fun. It’s neat to see what’s coming up in the new seasons.

What qualities do you have that help you in this career?
NP: I don’t know. I have an eye for fashion apparently. I hear that a lot from Snob Shop customers. I pick what I like, and everyone else seems to like it, also.

What’s the most challenging part of managing the boutique?
NP: My biggest fear is that customers may not like the clothes that I pick out. So far, I’ve had a good response from Jefferson City. They have welcomed me with this new boutique, and I’ve had good feedback.

Where did you get the idea to start the boutique?
NP: I went to my best friend’s wedding in Raleigh, North Carolina. She took me downtown and there was at least four or five boutiques per block. I just knew we didn’t have anything like this in Jefferson City. The closest boutique we have is in Columbia, and shoppers shouldn’t have to drive that far. I just wanted to try to keep it local. I just felt it would go well and it’s been great.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of it?
NP: I’m meeting new people. I knew there was a certain clientele that I would get at the Snob Shop. The people that come and sell me used clothes don’t necessarily wear used clothing. I wanted to attract the ones who don’t shop at resale shops to A Fine Mess. Now, I am meeting so many new, different people.

Alvin Leifeste

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