Owner Tee Tanney stands outside Sassy’s Wardrobe on Feb. 16. The popular women’s boutique in downtown Murphy is closing after 15 years.

Sadness abound as downtown boutique closes

    For homecoming her junior year, Leighton Brown stopped at Sassy’s Wardrobe first and bought the first pink, poufy dress she tried on.
    “Sassy’s is the first place all the girls go to,” Brown said. “Everyone knows Sassy’s will have good
dresses.”
    The moment was made more special because she felt like she grew up in the downtown Murphy store. With her mother, she often would visit the store – with white and pink walls, a gold ceiling, fashionable clothing and princess-like dresses – and got to know the owner on a first-name basis. Brown had a dream of one day working at Sassy’s.
    That dream came true a few months ago – and just in time, too. The downtown women’s clothing boutique is closing after 15 years in business.
    Brown, now a high school senior, said girls at school were sad to hear about the news.
    “Most girls are probably going to have to go out of town to get a dress,” she said.
    Tee Tanney, the owner, said she has been trying to sell Sassy’s since fall. She’s had 11 people try to buy the store but each deal fell through, the last one being earlier this month.
    “I just can’t keep holding on any longer,” Tanney said.
    She said it’s hard for her to talk about the store without becoming emotional.
    “It’s always sad when one chapter closes, but I’m so happy for my mom and am so proud of her,” said Autumn Brooke Tanney, one of Tanney’s four children, who over the years helped with the shop and watched her mom become a successful business owner.
    The store is selling everything inside, including the register, and planning to close by the end of the week.
    Meridith Jorgensen, director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, said the building has a lot of history. It was another women’s boutique – Maggie Belles – before Sassy’s moved in.
    “We hope it will continue on as a boutique,” she said. “Downtown is a important area in our community, so we’d like to have all the buildings filled.”
    Before owning Sassy’s, Tanney was a substitute high school teacher, when the owner of Butterflies, another women’s boutique downtown, asked her to work at the store. Even though she had not worked in retail before, Tanney eventually took the job. She went from part time to full time at the shop, gaining more responsibilities, until she was for the most part running the store.
    After about a year, Tanney bought the store and changed the name to Sassy’s Wardrobe.
    When Maggie Belles closed, the owner of the building asked her to move Sassy’s there. A year after moving in, she had the opportunity to purchase the building.
    In a paper she once wrote for a class, Brooke Tanney shared the story of Sassy’s and how the store expanded over the years, carrying more juniors apparel, shoes, accessories and even some children’s fashions. She wrote that the shop was popular not just because it was the only boutique of its kind in Murphy, but because Tanney made every customer feel special, going so far as to call each personally if something made her think of them.
    She and her two sisters purchased their homecoming and prom dresses from Sassy’s. The girls also traveled with their mom to market shows in Atlanta, Las Vegas and New York to find fashions to fill the store each season.
    “I’ve had a lot of memories there, and spent the most time there with her and at market,” Brooke Tanney said. “It opened our world to a lot of extra opportunities, including modeling and fun runway shows.”
    She said her mom always took the time to talk to teenagers about their day as they shopped for dresses, and truly enjoyed helping each girl find her dream dress.
    Tanney has been out of town lately and is in the process of moving to Nashville, Tenn., to be closer to her grandchildren. But she still checks in every day with the store manager, Barbi Boudrot.
    “She’s the best person I’ve ever worked for,” Boudrot said.
    Boudrot said they’ve made a lot of friendships over the years.
    “All of our customers are really sad to see it go,” Boudrot said. “Some have been with her for 15 years.”
    One customer even used social media to ask if she could shop in Tanney’s closet, adding that she would miss shopping at her favorite store. Lynda Lovell Turner moved to Murphy in 2004 and said the team at Sassy’s made the adjustment easier for her.
    “Not only did I find a great place to shop for in-style fashion, but I found a great friend,” Turner said. “As the years passed, I continued to shop at Sassy’s, finding clothes I could not find anywhere else. She put so much time and energy into making sure she was one of a kind.”
    Turner said she moved to Knoxville, Tenn., for work a few years ago but still would come back to shop at Sassy’s.
    “Walking into the store was like coming home,” she said.  “I will miss it terribly ... but most importantly, I can say the dear friendship with Tee will be one I will continue to cherish and enjoy.”
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.