Lagniappe Celebrates 25 years
The Grand Lagniappe Shoppe has seen its share of openings, relocations and closings over the years, but the store’s identity remains unchanged as owner Marcia Dobbs-Smith celebrates 25 years in business.
“We had head-turning fashion for women that want to stand out in a crowd and that’s what we still do,” Marcia said. “Lagniappe means ‘a little something extra’ and that’s what we are.”
Marcia was born and raised in Lake Charles, La. She remained in Lake Charles through college to graduate from McNeese State University. “Lagniappe” is a commonly used word in Louisiana, just as we might say “Thank you” or “God bless you.”
Marcia worked as a buyer for clothing companies in Texas after college. She began to look for a place to relocate with her son, Patrick, when a local company provided her with a little inspiration.
“I was drinking Mountain Valley Water and it said it was from Hot Springs,” Dobbs-Smith said. “I had a little boy that was in second grade and I wanted him to grow up in a place like Hot Springs.”
A subscription to The Sentinel-Record helped her learn more about Hot Springs and the surrounding area before she even came to Arkansas. She said she was drawn here by the eclectic culture, the water, the mountains and rocks, which was a favored interest of Patrick’s. She had a tough time finding work in Hot Springs and needed to provide for her son.The two lived in Hot Springs for about a year before the first store opened.
The original store, located in the Majestic Hotel, was almost named “Marcia’s Closet.” She told her neighbor, Nancy Horner, that when she borrowed clothes that she could tell people she got it from Marcia’s Closet, but the plan at the time was still to go back to college and become a teacher.
Even though she said she had thought about opening up a store for years, Marcia was hesitant because she knew that she would have to be “married to the store.” When Horner suggested the location at the Majestic, it was the quality of the deal that finally convinced her to open the Lagniappe Shoppe.
Marcia said she was never discouraged early on, but the events of the business’s first year frightened her a bit.The store officially opened on Oct. 15, 1989, when she was 32.The next 12 months saw the store burglarized, the downtown area hit by flooding, the beginning of the Gulf War, the start of a recession, and more.
“From Oct. 15 of ‘89 to Oct. 15 of ‘90, it seemed like it was one thing after another,” she said. “It was awful, just awful, but we made it through that.”
Downtown Hot Springs bounced back, and the Lagniappe Shoppe began to hit its stride. She paid off her first business loan within three years, and received an even bigger loan to expand the business. She also became more involved in the community, including sponsoring Miss Arkansas for many years.
A number of young women got their start at the Lagniappe Shoppe. Former employee Mary Stachey opened her own store, Jeans & Java, on Airport Road. Family members and friends would also help out at the shop.
Another location was eventually opened in the Downtowner Hotel and Spa, now known as the Springs Hotel and Spa. Marcia said she was very fond of the downtown area and her location at the Majestic.The store remained in operation for several weeks after the Majestic closed in 2006.
The Grand Lagniappe Shoppe location, 811 W. Grand Ave., was acquired and opened as a replacement for the store in the Majestic. Dobbs-Smith initially saw the Grand shop as a destination store.The new shop opened with nothing but “special occasion” items for proms, weddings, etc.The name “Grand” helped differentiate deliveries to the two locations.
Marcia said she quickly realized that the Grand Lagniappe Shoppe was the place to be. More commercial space, better parking and a better ratio of shoppers to buyers showed her the potential of the new location. All of the clothes and merchandise were taken from the remaining downtown location and set up on Grand.
The building next door has been owned by Dobbs-Smith for the past five years. It was opened as a second building less than two years ago. She said she is so busy now that she never has any time off.
The store is open officially from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.The store is closed on Sundays, except by appointment.
Plans for the next 25 years include growing the new “Grandelicious” tea room. Dobbs-Smith said there are no plans to create a restaurant, but smaller events and gatherings can be held at the shop. She also hopes that a shopping district can be extended for multiple businesses along Grand Avenue.
Marcia’s husband, Steve Smith, helps her with the business.The couple can easily keep up with their anniversary which also marked the First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
She has many people to thank for their support throughout the years, including Dorothy Morris, the Emblem Club and Martha Jane Birch, Rosemary Wooten, Barbara Jones, Rachel Green, Eg Bradley, Patricia Collins, Lynn Pellegrino, Rucina Johnson and many others.
“I don’t do this by myself.This is a team effort. From Rachel to Rosemary to Eg, all of us work together as a team,” She said. “My husband is an integral part of the business. He’s not too good at saying ‘that skirt is too short,’ but he keeps me on track. He takes care of all of those little things, so that I can grow my business. We have grown it here.”