JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 130 Jacksonville businesses permanently closed within the first four months of the pandemic, according to data from Yelp. At least one local boutique not only survived, but also expanded.
AnnMarie Cipriano opened the original Jane Doe store in Five Points in 2011. The store specialized in unique women’s clothing, accessories and home decor.
A few years later, Renee Chinault was hired on as an intern and eventually became a business partner. Together, the women owned and managed the store every day.
In early 2020, they made the decision to open a second store along St. Johns Avenue in the heart of Avondale. Here’s the kicker: the coronavirus pandemic had just begun.
A video the women shared on the store’s Instagram page showing the process was shot four days after the World Health Organization made its global declaration. Despite the risk, the women moved forward with plans to open the store.
“During the pandemic, we signed our lease five days before the shutdown,” Cipriano said. “We had to make really hard decisions and work 10, 12, and sometimes 14-hour days.”
Getting it ready was hard work, but the women were determined to see their vision through. They launched a pandemic-ready website in a couple of days and modeled the merchandise themselves to help with savings. They took on the manual labor, with no help.
“We were in here every day painting, putting furniture together, putting wallpaper up,” Chinault said.
The women admit they had their concerns.
“We were scared, but it was the only direction we could go, was forward,” Cipriano said.
“We knew that all we could do was continue on the path we had already set, and be awesome at that path,” Chinault agreed.
The store launch was a success, and then the unthinkable happened. A customer showed the women that “Southern Living” had named their boutique one of “the south’s best” for its April 2021 issue. They’re still in shock over the news.
“Complete and utter euphoria,” Chinault said. “We were shocked, goosebumps, and we were so excited.”
Cipriano agreed. She said that true feeling of accomplishment came through.
“There was a moment there when we said, “We did the work, we did the work. It was us,” Cipriano said.
The women have advice to anyone working to reach their goals: even in trying times, don’t give up.
“I think that Mark Cuban said it best when he said, ‘do your job every day, chase your dream every day like someone is chasing you to take it from you,’” Cipriano said. “We love our guests. If you don’t love what you do, you can’t do what you do well.”
Making their dreams happen at the local level, and beyond.
Cipriano and Chinault both owe their success and ability to expand to their loyal customers.
Jane Doe was the only Jacksonville-based store named in the magazine, and one of just four in Florida. You can check out its website: https://www.shopjanedoe.com/.
Jane Doe isn’t the only business to find success during the pandemic. Yelp data show nearly half a million new businesses opened in the United States during the first year of the pandemic. Of those, 76,000 were restaurant and food businesses. The majority were new professional and home-based businesses.