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When it comes to providing for children, Little Hoot gives a hoot

Eric Harris, Special to the Press • Apr 30, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Having a child isn’t cheap. Many parents hit hard by both personal and national financial crises have had to seek cost-effective alternatives to provide for their children. Even parents who aren’t struggling to pay the bills look to the bargain bins due to the escalating cost of raising children.

Little Hoot Boutique is a resale shop that specializes in kids’ clothing and offers gently used items at low prices. The shop carries sizes newborn to junior in both boys’ and girls’ clothes. The store also features toys, books, games, strollers, car seats, maternity clothes and just about anything else that can make a little one feel warm, safe or amused.

Items can be donated to the store or sold for cash or store credit, giving customers an opportunity to trade up as their children grow up.

Desiree Potts is a former Little Hoot employee and mother of two who still shops in the store. She says the prices and employees have kept her coming back.

“I love Gymboree clothes, but I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I don’t have the money to spend on it new,” she said. “I come here to buy stuff that I can afford.”

Jessica Moore is the owner of the store. Originally from Louisiana, she relocated to Johnson City with her family after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

“We tried to stick it out there for a while but there was no access to milk and food and gas and we had three small children,” she said. “So, we really prayed about where we felt like we needed to be and this is where we landed.”

Moore and her husband, Brian, arrived with no family in the area, no friends and no jobs waiting for them. While in Louisiana, Moore ran an autism therapy business, and found similar work in the Tri-Cities.

Moore said it is her own experiences with growing up in poverty that have given her a strong desire to help people. She believed a resale shop would allow her to reach out to a community in need.

The family business opened in an old, 900-square-foot apartment building in 2010. The products within the store had been gathered by spending weeks picking through garage sales.

Within roughly three years of opening, Little Hoot has had to move twice to accommodate the growth in inventory. It’s been so successful that the store now occupies 5,000-square-feet in its latest location off South Roan Street.

Little Hoot’s road to success wasn’t without difficulty.

Moore remembers the days where she was running everything by herself and would often hope to have just one customer come in.

“As a mom of four, it’s a little difficult when you try to tell your family that you’re going to have to work 70-80 hours a week, so that didn’t go over really well at first,” she said. “I still look back on those days where I’d call my husband and be like, ‘We just made $6,’ and that was just so exciting.”

Moore now has enough employees that the business can function well whether she’s at the store or not. Wendy Champouillon is one such employee.

“It’s not really like a job,” she said. “I’m best friends with everybody that I work with here. You develop bonds with the customers. It’s really fun and it’s never boring. And I get to be around kids. I love kids.“

She also loves knowing that she’s providing a needed service. “You know you’re helping someone,” she said.

Little Hoot helps in other ways, too.

The store sponsors four families each month who have a need, and four times a year, the parking lot is filled with items for anyone to come in and take what they need for free.

Moore also recently opened a store next door to Little Hoot called, The Nest, which is a resale shop specifically for young adults. On one side of the store, teens can come in and buy clothes. On the other side is a coffee shop that serves as a hangout for teens who want to get out of the house to do homework, watch TV, listen to music, play pool or spend time with friends.

“I have two teenagers and I realized whether they’re going to the mall or the skate park or anything, that there is trouble for them to find and trouble will find them,” Moore said. “I longed for there to be a place where youth could come and hang out and be safe in a good environment.”

The clothing side pays for everything on the café side, including free events such as live music and movie screenings.

Moore hopes that her stores can continue to grow. Eventually, she’d like to launch more Little Hoot Boutiques in areas like Kingsport and Erwin.

“It’s funny, I still don’t see myself as successful,” she said. “God’s really humbled me and I give Him all the credit for all that’s happened here, and I still see ways that we can do better and make more and serve more people. So I’m always looking for that instead of relishing in what we’ve done.”

Little Hoot Boutique is located at 2405 S. Roan St.

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