RIDGEWAY — Being a successful businesswoman in Fairfield County has put one woman over the top in her plans to expand into a larger market.
Tina Johnson, owner of Over the Top, a woman’s fashion store that specializes in hats but also sells clothing and jewelry is expanding into the Columbia market with a new storefront on 1332 Main Street Columbia. It also is accessible from 1216 Washington Street, Columbia. The new business does not figure to sell lots of hats, though Johnson hopes connections to the president of USC (his wife is an Over the Top customer) will help her get into sales of college-related hats.
In Columbia she anticipates selling to younger shoppers in addition to the mainly middle aged clientele she caters to in Ridgeway. Clothes, accessories, jewelry, and scarves look to be her main sellers.
Blue Sky and various other artists are just three blocks down. She realizes the shopping experience will be different in Columbia.
“Here in Ridgeway, it’s different because we either bring people in or they come here specifically to shop with us,” she said.
She draws from ladies who come by for a cup of tea an then want to browse for hats with all the accessories.
“The challenge will be focusing on the ladies we service now while trying to appeal to younger girls,” she said. Johnson fills a niche because as she and Terry Vickers with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce agree, there is little in the modern store aimed at the style needs of women their age.
I will not sell you a hat that does not look good on you, Johnson said. She will pick out a hat and match it to a customer and then help the customer build an outfit around it. That kind of personal attention and stylistic gift is what made Scott Bell drive down from her home in Salem’s Crossroads area of the county to shop at Over the Top. While there, she entered into the Shop Fairfield First contest and was fortunate enough to have her name drawn as a $50 winner.
“If this were a gift certificate, I could just give it to Tina and let her pick out the clothes for me and everything would be just perfect, sight unseen,” she said. That personal touch is something Johnson strives to maintain as she opens a second store.
It is a case of supply and demand, as it often the case in the challenging retail market.
“Ladies in Columbia asked if I ever planned on opening up there,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it is not a particularly big store space and that her Ridgeway operations will remain her home base for retail.
The building is the first indoor mall in Columbia, circa 1912. There is an old arcade in the Columbia building, too.
“It is the perfect location, so we’ll expand and see where the Lord takes it from there,” Johnson said.
Her long time Ridgeway customers need not worry. She and her husband purchased the building where they have worked for the past three years and are hard at work renovating it to remain the home base from which her business will spring.