As customers walk into her store to shop for trendy clothes and accessories, they are greeted by the calming smell of her “prunus” candle and a welcoming hello.
Jessica Jackson opened her dream store, Betty&June, seven years ago after seeing the need for a new atmosphere downtown.
GETTING TO ABILENE
Though she lived in Raleigh, North Carolina for nine years, she found herself back in Texas in 2010, relocating to Abilene for her husband’s military job.
Before Abilene, she worked in retail at different stores, inspiring the vision for her own boutique.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to open something, so when I came here, I started looking around. The first place I wanted to go was downtown,” she said. “There really weren’t any contemporary stores. I knew there was a need for something.”
Jessica said the first year was the most difficult because she was unfamiliar with the town and people.
“I never knew what it could be, and never thought it would be running this long. The first year was hard because I wasn’t from here, so I didn’t know the town or the people.”
When she would ask people where they shopped, the most common answer was online. Jennifer wanted people to support local businesses, so she started looking downtown.
“Downtown is where everything happens and where everyone is. This spot was available and I knew I needed to start small.”
Since the beginning, she’s been evolving to get different products and listen to customers’ needs. Now, she uses Instagram to look for the current styles, and aims for lower price points to bring in a variety of customers.
“It’s definitely hard when you don’t have a lot of traffic,” she said. “Our social media helps us, and word of mouth is great too. In a smaller town, its not store after store, so we’re kind of more of a destination spot.”
BEHIND THE NAME
Written in chalk marker on the wall behind the register is the story of Betty&June.
Initially, Jessica wanted to name the store “Wardrobe,” but realized after searching the internet that it was overused.
“When we were thinking, I wanted it to be something special,” Jessica said. “Nothing was hitting close to home. Our grandmothers were super different, so that inspired us. His grandmother was more tomboy, and my grandmother would dress up for things like going to the grocery store.
On the Betty&June website, Jessica says:
“Betty, my grandmother, was the most elegant woman I have ever met. I can remember sitting at the foot of her bed, immersed in watching her get ready to host one of her cocktail parties.
“June is a self-proclaimed ‘tomboy’ at heart.
“Her stories and life have always reflected this as well, whether she was climbing trees or racing her brother’s home from school, she was never afraid to get dirty and the clothing at Betty&June reflect her spirit.
“From the boyfriend jeans, burnout tees, to over-sized knit sweaters we feel her influence and they are essential to every wardrobe. Her style was extremely versatile, comfortable, total effortless beauty — that is June.”
THE FAMILY LIFE
With a four-year-old and an 11-year-old, Jessica said sometimes she struggles to make it in every day.
“I’m always here to check on things and some days, I work a full shift. I would love to be here every day because this is also my baby, but I have real-life humans. Both kids are in school Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I’m here when they’re in school. When I have them, I’ll bring my daughter in and she’ll pretend she’s ringing up a customer.”
GETTING THE VENDORS
For Jessica, getting new items in is like Christmas. Her favorite vendor, Free People, was the hardest to get through her doors.
Before she opened the store, she said she had a list of lines she wanted to carry, but because another store already carried Free People, she was unable to.
Two years ago, she got a call with the offer to sell their brand.
“I love Free People, so getting it was huge because it was so hard.”
In addition to Free People, Jessica said her other favorites are ones that give back, including good hYOUman and Bracha, which support cancer research and anti-trafficking foundations, respectively.
Jessica said some vendors are easy to bring into the store, but some are more complicated.
“When we go to market, you show up and pick what you want, but a few stores have a longer process. Some want to visit the store before offering their brand to your store.”
For the most part, she prefers to carry her own brands and avoid vendor overlaps with other Abilene boutiques.
Because downtown is growing rapidly, Jessica said she looks forward to building community with new places.
When she first arrived in Abilene, the Arrangement was the only boutique, and for the most part, she said it was all western-wear stores. Now, there is another boutique and more to do, so Betty&June is no longer just a destination spot.
Across the street, the renovations to an old building will bring another clothing store, M.E&YOU, as well as Grain Theory, a brewery started by David Kasselman.
“I would like to grow, but I want to stay downtown,” Jessica said. “My goal right now is to make my online presence a little bit bigger. But these places will bring more traffic downtown, so we’re pretty excited.
“Abilene is still evolving, but right now is a good time. People are catching on and wanting to do things.”