Lagniappe Cel­e­brates 25 years

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Features - Story by JAY BELL Pho­tos by MANDIE GOBER

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.”

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