Most people don’t drive by a deserted gas station and target it as a future home for a boutique. However, the idea floated for years in the head of Alyssa Vaughn, co-owner of Monett boutique Flying V Mercantile.
Vacant for seven years at 812 E. U.S. Highway 60, the former Quik Stop had become an eyesore, she says. Anyone who purchased it was going to face extensive renovation work for the building and removal of gas tanks. Vaughn, who opened Flying V in 2016 at 219 E. Broadway Ave., was up for the challenge and purchased the space with her husband at the end of 2018.
“I knew it was going to be a quite the ordeal to fix it up,” Vaughn says. “It had been on the market a long time, and nobody wanted it because it had underground gas tanks. Once you start redoing things at an old gas station, then [Department of Natural Resources] gets involved and you have to have these really expensive inspections, somebody to take the tanks out and fill the ground back in.”
Vaughn says they invested roughly $400,000 in the property, including $170,000 to purchase the 3,000-square-foot building. The boutique, which sells women’s clothing, shoes, accessories and gifts, shares about half of the space with Mount Vernon-based KeenBean Coffee Roasters LLC.
“The main reason was to be on Highway 60,” she says of her shop’s less than 2-mile move last September. “But I really wanted a coffee shop, and I wanted there to be a drive-thru because there wasn’t one in Monett. That’s just a gap in the market.”
The shops operate in two storefronts but have eight-foot double glass doors that separate the businesses but allow visitors to drift from one space to the other.
“Both of us are really relaxed about the fact that my people are going to be on your side and your people are going to be on my side,” she says. “That was kind of our plan from the beginning.”
While declining to disclose figures, Vaughn says Flying V’s revenue has risen annually since opening, jumping 23% last year over 2020. That increase was spurred by a strong fourth quarter, which came after the move to Highway 60. In the last three months of the year, revenue grew 31% over 2020’s fourth quarter – also attributable to e-commerce sales.
“We only have so many people that live around here. So, if you’re wanting to expand in this kind of business, you have to go expand online,” she says, noting e-commerce has grown to 25% of sales since increasing the store’s online presence in 2018. “We still have significant growth options there.”
Except for a couple local vendors, she says almost all the store’s inventory is purchased at apparel and accessories markets in Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas.
Recruiting KeenBean Coffee to Monett was a quick process, Vaughn says, adding she’s been a customer for years. It’s the first brick-and-mortar shop outside Mount Vernon for the 21-year-old company.
“I knew they had a longstanding business so they must be doing something right,” Vaughn says, noting she contacted co-owner Tracy Bradshaw out of the blue, as the two had never met.
“We met and just kind of clicked,” she says. “It was one of those handshake deals. ‘Hey, I’m going to fix this up for you.’ We didn’t have anything in writing until after she moved in.”
Bradshaw says she and husband Darrell signed a one-year lease with Vaughn for $1,100 per month, noting an extension is under consideration. KeenBean’s Monett shop has a smaller footprint and menu than the Mount Vernon location, which also serves beer, wine and more lunch options.
“It’s different but still very positive,” Bradshaw says. “It can never hurt to have more than one business in one location. It spreads out options. … Needless to say, there are a lot of men drinking coffee while their wives are across the way shopping. We have plenty of that.”
After moving Flying V Mercantile out of its original Broadway Street home, Vaughn retained ownership of the building. She’s in the process of converting the 2,500-square-foot space to an event venue dubbed The V Downtown.
“We’re looking at an event space where you can have small weddings, birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers – just something that’s set up pretty all the time that people can rent out,” she says, adding a March opening is planned. “It’s a really cool, old building with the original hardwood floors and a tin-stamped ceiling.”
As the event space opening is just a few weeks away, Vaughn realizes this year is going to be a busy one to juggle multiple businesses. She also co-owns real estate agency A-List Properties Premier LLC with her mother-in-law, Julie Vaughn.
Still, she embraces the professional opportunities ahead of her.
“If my life’s not a circus, then I’m bored,” she says. “So, I like to keep going. I really enjoy it. The main thing is I’m just really blessed to have such good people to work with that I can do multiple things.”
The expanded facility is expected to reach annual revenue of $650M.