Cooperstown native Donabeth Neil took her business to the barn, reopening the once-downtown Purple Star Boutique in a rustic, 500-square-foot space on her 5995 state Highway 28, Fly Creek property in August 2018.
Neil, who said retail business ownership was her dream, launched the women’s boutique on Main Street in Cooperstown in 1994, where it operated for 18 years. Today, she continues offering women’s clothing and accessories from the Fly Creek site.
“I went to merchandising school in Colorado and I was always interested in clothing,” she said. “I always loved art, clothing and just always dreamt of having my own boutique.
“I worked for a few other people in their stores and really liked it,” she said. “Then I got divorced, I was a single mom with two kids and I said, ‘I have to do something with my life,’ so I went for it. I went to the bank, got a loan and opened my first store 1994 in downtown Cooperstown.”
Eighteen years in, Neil said, she branched into restaurant ownership with her second husband and made a choice between food and fashion.
“We had opened a restaurant called the Yum Yum Shack and I was doing both,” she said, “but after doing that for three or four years, I was totally burned out. I had to be (at the restaurant) and I couldn’t do both, so I closed the Purple Star in (2012).”
The sale of the restaurant and a return to retail, Neil said, cemented her commitment to the shop.
“I worked retail for somebody else for a summer,” she said, “but I was like, ‘I miss my own store.’ I wanted my store back and I missed the creativity and the customers, so I looked at places in Oneonta, but my second husband said, ‘What about the barn?’
“We have an awesome barn that is right next door to our house,” she said. “It’s over 100 years old … and the barn was just being used as storage, so we left all the creativity of the barn, but added electricity, insulation and sheetrock and I love the space; it’s beautiful.”
Despite the passage of decades and change in location, Neil said, she’s kept the distinctive inventory for which the Purple Star Boutique became known.
“I have women’s accessories and jewelry, home goods, a lot of gifts and women’s clothing,” she said. “I also had a few pieces of repurposed furniture when I first opened, but they all sold, so I’m working on some pieces to put back in the store. It’s an eclectic shop full of all kinds of little trinkets and I like unusual and different things, so when I go on buying trips, I zone in on unique things that not everybody has.”
That singularity, she said, has kept old customers while cultivating new clientele.
“(Customers) are mostly women, but I definitely have some men,” Neil said. “I have young women in their 20s coming in and I’ll have women into their 60s and 70s, so it’s a pretty wide range and they come because they don’t see (the inventory) everywhere else. It’s unique and they like that they don’t see everyone else with the same clothing.
“I have customers coming from Utica, over in Edmeston and that whole area, Sharon Springs and some from Albany,” she said. “I have customers from New York (City), too, that come here for the weekends that were my customers before. Because my name for 18 years was downtown, people have driven by (the barn) and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s the Purple Star. It’s got to be the same store.’”
Neil said, while an opening date may be impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, she hopes to introduce special events once able.
“I’m planning on doing a night one night a week called ‘Women’s Night’ where you can come in for a glass of wine and shop,” she said. “I haven’t really picked a specific night, but I think that would be fun.”
For more information and updates, find “Purple Star Boutique” on Facebook or follow Purple Star Boutique on Instagram or call Neil at 607-435-1286.