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not quite the new kid on the block, but not the old granny, either.

A few weeks ago, two of my good friends stopped by the shop to get a gift. As they were
shopping and we were chatting, our conversation turned towards the shop. It went something
like this:

Friend: “how long have you been open now?”

Me: “in May, it will be eight years!”

Friend: “I can’t believe you’ve been here almost a decade!”

Me: crickets….”it HAS almost been a decade, hasn’t it!?”

Y’all, time seriously flies when you’re having fun! To be completely honest, this thought of
being in business for close to a decade never once came into my mind, until my friend brought it
to my attention. One decade. Ten years. I’m closer to celebrating a decade that I am to
celebrating being a “new shop in town.” My mind is seriously blown!

The more I’ve been thinking about this upcoming eighth birthday celebration, the more I’ve
realized how many of you are new to the journey, and how many of you have been with me since
the beginning. To each and every one of you, I would like to say a sincere ‘Thank You!’ For
both new and old friends, I thought it was only appropriate that I take some time to tell you my
story, and the story of how we got here.

For starters, my name is Merrill, and I’m the owner of this wonderful shop, m. lynne designs. I
officially opened the doors here in May of 2010, but this journey started a little more than one
year prior.

I was a senior at Texas Tech University, where I received my Bachelor’s of Interior Design, with
a double minor in Architecture and Restaurant, Hotel & Institutional Management. I sailed
through the first semester of my Senior year, excited for what the future held, and so thankful
that I wasn’t one of the many Seniors trying to secure interviews to get a job as soon as I
graduated; I felt so fortunate, because the company that I interned with the previous summer, an
Interior Architecture firm in Dallas, had already offered me a job upon graduation. Talk about no
stress! I was just instructed to “check back in” with them a few months before graduation, and
we would figure out the logistics.

Flash forward to second semester, I think it was in March of 2009, when I checked back in.
They told me to come to town for a “mock” interview, and when I did, I was assured that a place
was waiting for me after graduation. Flash forward a few more weeks, and I received news from
a friend who was currently working there, that people were being let go. She encouraged me to
reach back out, just to make sure I still had a job…and low and behold, the dream job that I was
so looking forward to, was gone. Thanks to the plummeting economy, companies all over were
having to downsize, just to stay afloat.

So, with little more than one month before graduation, I had no job, and no plan. To make a long
story short, I experienced what I lovingly refer to as my ‘quarter-life crisis’ and began
brainstorming what options I had. After a lot of tears and prayers, I finally decided that I needed
to move back home, and in with my parents, until I could figure things out. I planned to utilize
my Interior Design degree, and start refinishing furniture. So, in May 2009, after I moved back
home, I formed m. lynne designs.

Moving home after college was definitely not part of my plan, but after the world I thought I was
heading towards came crumbling down, I began to listen more to God’s guidance, and let go of
the plans that I thought were the right ones. So many things in my life began to take shape, and
opportunities started falling into place. Not being employed (except by myself), I was able to be
with my mom as her mother’s health declined. I was able to be there for her whole-heartedly, as
we lived out of a suitcase for over one month, without having to report back in to a boss, or
worry about how behind I would be at work. My full-time job was just being present.

The first few months of being in business for myself were anything but easy; between juggling a
side job that I deemed necessary, painting vintage furniture, and trying to find design jobs, I
really didn’t have much of a direction. Thankfully, that October, I got my first furniture job. A
family friend was hosting an event at her business, and she requested that my original furniture
pieces be part of her event. I painted as many pieces as I could, and by mid-October, I had quite
a few pieces to display. The event went well, and I even sold a few pieces…and received many
requests for custom furniture and design work! I was so excited! I continued working, and by
March, it became very apparent that working out of my parents backyard just wasn’t going to cut
it anymore-I needed a business space of my own.

My mom saw an ad in the paper for a rental space in Finishing Touch plaza, and she suggested
that I make an appointment to check it out. I went late one evening, with both of my parents, and
as soon as I walked in the space, I knew that this was where I was meant to be. Every fiber of
my being was calling me to this little space, and as I walked around, I got goosebumps as I
realized that this was it. I literally had no plan, but I knew that this space was the beginning. It
had everything that I needed, and it checked off every box on my “space checklist.”

Soon after, I signed the lease, and started adding my own touches to make this space my own. I
went to Market with two of my Aunts(both of whom had experience in the retail world), who
were going to show me the ropes of “buying,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

If I’m being completely honest, owning and running a store was something I always wanted to
do, but for some reason, I never felt like it was something that I could or should do. When I was
little, we would go visit my grandparents, and on each trip, on multiple occasions, we would
stop by my great-aunts store that was in the same town. I remember spending hours at her store
not only shopping (obviously) but wondering around and watching her work. She brought her
dog and eventually dogs with her, and they greeted every guest. She had rooms full of amazing
products, from clothing to home decor, and I always remember wondering how she knew how to
display everything. It always looked immaculate, and it was amazing to me that this was her
actual job. She had a room in the back devoted to wrapping gifts, that was full of more wrapping
paper and ribbon than I had ever seen in one place, and I loved getting to sit on the counter and
watch as she or one of her girls lovingly wrapped gifts, creasing the edges, tying a beautiful
ribbon, and placing her store sticker ever so perfectly on the top right corner of each gift. When
customers would check out, I loved watching as she wrote their ticket, and punched in prices on
the cash register; to me, the sound of that cash register clinking and dinging, and the ‘pop’ of the
cash drawer opening was a symphony of beautiful sounds.

From a young age, I loved “playing store” and I would save price tags and clothing tags, to build
up my collection of “inventory” for my store. When I was really little, I had a Fisher Price toy
cash register, and eventually, my dad gave me an old keyboard that I turned into my cash register.
I remember using the cord that plugged into the computer tower as my “scanner.” One year for
Christmas, Santa even brought me a toy Target cash register, complete with scanner and credit
card swiper.

So, after buying product, fixing up this new space, and continuing my work on furniture, I was
ready to plan my grand opening. I enlisted the help of my retail-savvy aunts, and they enlisted
the help of two amazingly talented friends, and together, with my family, we got the shop ready
for my grand opening. We sent out invitations, and put ads in the local newspaper-the business
aspect of Facebook wasn’t a thing, and Instagram wasn’t born yet. (now I sound really old,
right?)

The Grand Opening event went off without a hitch, as so many friends and family came out to
show their support. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I remember being thrilled about
this new adventure that was starting. The event was on a Friday, and the the following Saturday,
I remember practically skipping into work, so excited to be there.

Two years after I opened, the business that was next to my space moved, and I was able to
expand and essentially double my space. Remodeling and being open at the same time wasn’t
exactly easy, but truthfully, nothing about owning your own business IS easy.

Throughout the years, I have been amazed at all of the “God” things that I have experienced,
from customer interactions to little signs that I’m on the path He chose for me. It has been an
honor to personalize such special items for customers over the years, and the relationships that
have been built continue to amaze me. People who started out as customers have turned into
family. It hasn’t been an easy road to go down, especially starting a business at such a young
age, but I can honestly say that I haven’t actually had to work a single day yet. I love what I do,
more than I can possibly express. To me, it’s about more than just “owning a store.” It’s about
relationships, and it’s about caring for other people. It’s about lifting others up, and putting a
smile on someone’s face. It’s offering a safe space, and a colorful space, where you’re almost
certain to always leave happy. In fact, since opening the doors almost eight years ago, one
comment has always stuck out to me. I can’t begin to count the number of customers who have
and continue to say, “This is the happiest store I’ve ever been in!” and each time, I can’t help but
thank God for this opportunity to play a small part in making others happy. Without even
intending to, this shop has become a place where customers pop in, simply to get in a better
mood, or to cheer up from a rough day. I’ve had the pleasure of praying with customers, offering
a shoulder to cry on, or just breaking into the emergency stash of chocolate and listening to them.

It has been an incredible eight years, from being the youngest member in the 2011 class of 20
Under 40, to being the youngest recipient of both the Wichita Falls SBDC Young Entrepreneur
Award and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s DFW District Young Entrepreneur of the
Year Award, and everything in between. As I look back, I want to say ‘thank you’ to all of you
who have supported me from the beginning, to those that have recently become part of this
family. Thank you for being part of this adventure, and thank you for allowing me to be part of
your lives. I look forward to many more years of being the happiest store you’ve ever been to!
#mlynnedesigns #happieststoreinwf #shoplocalwf

M. Lynne Designs is a BBB Accredited Gift Shop in Wichita Falls, TX
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