The year was 2009, the economic bust was wrecking businesses up and down the Emerald Coast and the mother/daughter duo, Susan Henry and Courtney Hood, found themselves out of the design business and in need of new careers quickly! With 3 storage units full of furniture and Susan’s husband Tommy (Courtney’s dad) having empty units in his shopping complex to fill, Ava’s Attic was born! They leased a 1,400 square foot space and, after 3 weeks the new store was open to the public, “We were getting so many calls we couldn’t keep up!” recalls Susan. The beginning didn’t start without its challenges. “We were like Sanford and son, and would buy or consign just about anything that came through the door!” remembers Susan. They borrowed a flatbed trailer from their son Brett, who would go along with Susan to do any pickup they got a call for. If they had five customers in a day, it was a success! Sometimes on Saturdays, Susan & Courtney would eat at Don Pedro’s and watch for customers. “If someone showed up, we would run over to meet them at the door,” she recalls, laughing.
As the store began to gain momentum, Susan and Tommy emptied a few more storage units, this time filled with designer furniture. They bought their first official moving truck, and convinced their son Brett to stay on and help with the ever-growing number of pickups. This truly was a family business, and with everyone pitching in toward its success, the business continued to grow.
A month in, at the suggestion of many customers, clothing was born, and within a week an entire room was full all by word of mouth. One customer in particular sticks out in Susan’s mind. “I got a call to go look at a storage unit full of shoes and clothes. Not knowing what I was walking into, I took a chance and met up with Liz Sumral. She opened her unit and it was amazing! Rows and rows of beautifully preserved Italian shoes and racks upon racks of barely touched clothing, I couldn’t believe my eyes!” she recalls. “That meeting with Liz really helped shape Ava’s Consignment Boutique.”
Perhaps because of the economic crisis of those days, consignment shopping was in bloom. The furniture department was expanding unit by unit, and clothing was growing by the day. The Henrys have always relied on the loyalty of their customers to help drive their business. “Customer service and personal relationships with our customers are such important things to us. After all, their word of mouth has everything to do with what made Ava’s what it is today!” says Susan. “I also think our customers appreciate the variety at Ava’s, it’s like a treasure hunt! You may discover a table or chair for $40 or a buffet for $3000. You just never know what you are going to find!”
Susan and Courtney each have their strengths and play off of each other. That is one of the keys to the business that makes all of the moving parts work so well! They both feel they have personally grown so much with the business over the years, and continue to learn what success really means as a growing local family business.
Now their operation has taken on a new space once again. Still located in Miramar Plaza, Ava’s is growing, and becoming bigger and better. The adventure continues!