Nothing about Holly Howard or her new clothing, décor and gifts boutique is ordinary.
When she opened The Hollyhock House a month ago, she wanted shoppers to experience something unique.
Speaking with a friendly Southern lilt, the Kentucky-born Howard projects warmth and hospitality.
“It’s really all about manners, and making people feel special and welcome. That’s my personality in general. I want people to come in and relax,” she said.
The Hollyhock House specializes in distinctive apparel, accessories, home décor and gifts — items that aren’t commonplace. Sizes range from extra small to plus sizes up to 3X.
“I wanted to have a variety of styles, but in limited supply, so people feel they are getting something different and something special,” she said. “When items sell out, I say, ‘I won’t have more of that, but we can order something else.’ I constantly have new things coming in so that people feel it’s not the same thing everyone else in town is wearing,” she said.
Howard, who grew up on a tobacco farm near Murray, Ky., moved to O’Fallon about three years ago, to be closer to her fiancé, Michael Siebert, whom she met at Murray State University. He is a native of Belleville, but lives and works in O’Fallon now.
While a student, she worked at a boutique that would influence her life.
“I fell in love with retail, specifically, boutiques, because they are unique, provide a good customer service experience and make it something special for people,” she said.
Howard, 29, stays in contact with vendors to seek out interesting merchandise, and not just the same brands.
“My personal style is to step out of the box, so I pick from a variety of vendors to keep it fresh and keep it new,” she said.
“The big thing now is to be comfortable — oversize, flowing things.”
Both casual and business attire is available, and some items can transition for both looks. She will stock the occasional cocktail dress, but nothing too formal. “Something you can wear to a nice dinner or a party,” she said.
Being in the historic downtown business district was also important to her.
“I wanted to be on First Street, not just downtown, and the only space that wasn’t occupied was this,” she said. “The owners thought it was a good idea to bring to O’Fallon, and agreed.”
She has spent months renovating Dr. Joseph Needles’ former office. The retired physician was in family medical practice for 49 years.
“It was a bunch of little rooms. We opened it all up,” she said. “I was hoping to be open months ago, but renovations took longer than expected, and that’s to be expected. We had to completely gut the space.”
Since she opened Nov. 15, the response has been gratifying.
“It exceeded our expectations,” she said. “People say O’Fallon needed this, and have been supportive and enthusiastic. We’re very happy to be here.”
Shopping became a hobby while growing up as the only daughter, with two younger brothers, on a farm. Holly and her mom, now a retired teacher, enjoyed their girl time together.
“I’ve always loved fashion, nothing too couture,” she said.
Howard first moved to the area when she accepted an internship with the Pujols Family Foundation in St. Louis. She helped organize and plan events for the two primary components of the foundation — Down syndrome support and humanitarian relief in the Dominican Republic.
“I loved it. I learned a lot, and it helped me grow,” she said.
Providing special touches is second nature to her.
One of the services she offers is “The Hollyhock Helper” for those who can’t figure out what to get someone or who don’t have time to shop.
They can fill out a form online, and Holly or her staff will recommend the perfect gift.
Her future goals include online shopping, and they will ship directly from her shop, she said. Private shopping parties arranged for families and friends are also going to be offered.
But for now, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. And she couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a good thing to be busy,” she said with a smile.
It’s really all about manners, and making people feel special and welcome. That’s my personality in general. I want people to come in and relax.
Holly Howard, owner of The Hollyhock House
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “They all sound a little cliche for me. If I ever come up with something original and awesome, I’ll let you know.”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “I admire strong and independent women the most.”
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: “At the moment, I think I would have to pick JoAnna Gaines. Not only do I compare my design style to hers, but I also feel that she is “the” up-and-coming business woman, and I would love to pick her brain.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “‘The Gold Finch’ by Donna Tartt. I studied literature in college. I enjoy all different types of books, and reading is something I try to always make time for.”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “For fun, I love to read, shop, and watch Netflix. For relaxation, I get a manicure and pedicure.”
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: “For the most part, I try to stay organized.”
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: “Growing up, I loved animals (still do), so I wanted to be a vet. Now, I have two dogs that are probably doing something they’re not supposed to right now, and that’s plenty.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “Positivity and imagination.”
Q: What irritates you most?
A: “Bad manners.”
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “I love all types of music, but Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks never get old.”
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: “I love being able to provide my clients with something unique. Whether it is a gift or an outfit, when a client leaves the shop loving what they bought because it is genuinely special, I know I have done my job successfully.”
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: “Honestly, I would be doing the exact same thing I’m doing now. I would definitely travel more and give to several non-profits that I am passionate about, but I would still want to have my shop. Yes, it brings me that much joy.”
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: “Many people have told me that I look like Sarah Michelle Gellar, but since she is not acting anymore, the only other person I can think of is Peter Dinklage because he’s awesome.”
About The Hollyhock House
- Address: 107 W. First St., O’Fallon
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
- Website: thehollyhockshop.com