Lynn Hampton is an incorrigible optimist. Whether working through unhealthy relationships, suffocating debt or any of life”s various rainy days, she expects God to shut the mouths of those “lions” just as he did for Daniel in the lions” den.
That”s why she didn”t think twice when she quit her job at Starkville Discount Drugs in January despite having no job lined up or any idea what she would do with the rest of her life.
“When I told my husband what I wanted to do, he was so supportive. I think he got tired of me coming home saying ”I want to do something different,”” she said.
Hampton, a mother of four from Starkville, loved her job and her co-workers, but knew her upward mobility was limited at the drug store. She wanted to be more of a leader, but needed a cause.
After floating around for a few weeks, handling odd tasks and generally enjoying life, Hampton”s cousin received divine inspiration.
“She said ”Why advertise in the paper? You can work for yourself,”” Hampton recalls. “She said ”You”re going to start out as a thrift store. That”s your seed. And it will grow into something more.””
Always the optimist, Hampton dove into the idea head first. She rented a building from Helen Taylor, CEO of the nonprofit Brickfire Project and wife of Level III owner Andre Taylor, then she put her gregarious nature to work soliciting donations from friends and associates.
Any trace of reservations she had about the idea were quickly erased.
“It was overwhelming. I would come in some mornings and there would be bags all down the hallway,” she said of the donations she found at her store on Dr. D.L. Conner Drive. “I had so many people helping, bringing racks for the clothes and just giving me guidance.”
Word spread so rapidly about Hampton”s new store that she began making sales before it even opened. Then on March 11, she officially opened Lynn”s Den.
The name is a daily reminder of God”s grace.
“Whenever hard times come, I remember how God protected Daniel. He shut the lions” mouths. And we serve the same God, so he”ll do it for me,” she said.
The current incarnation of Lynn”s Den, she says, is only the beginning. She expects growth and diversification. But for now Hampton”s store is filled with racks of clothes and random items, though she”s sold furniture and appliances as well.
The clothing, as long as it”s donated, will sell for $3 apiece for shirts, blouses and slacks and $5 for two-piece men”s and women”s suits. The only way the prices will go up, she explained, is when the donations slow down and she”s forced to turn to the Internet to buy inventory.
She says it”s not uncommon for customers to spend $50 or more in a visit because they”re amazed at the name-brand clothing they find for low prices.
“I”m not looking to become a millionaire. My mission is to help people,” said Hampton.
Lynn”s Den isn”t a registered charitable organization, so no tax write-offs for donations, but Hampton has checked in with the local Red Cross to express her willingness to help.
Otherwise, she does good work by “loving on people.”
“Some of my customers say ”This is what I have,” and I say ”Here, I saw you looking at this outfit and you put it back. Get this and let”s work something out, because this is yours,”” she said.
Hampton takes every opportunity she gets to share her testimony through lending a helping hand because she”s struggled financially in the past.
“I got in such a financial mess at one time. I had a check at every check cashing place in Starkville and even started going to West Point,” she said. “My whole check was going to pay the interest on these loans. I was about to lose my car and everything. I had to drop pride.”
Hampton went to the owner of Starkville Discount Drugs and told him her story.
“He fussed at me real good, but he had his accountant make out a check to each check cashing place. And I paid him back every penny because he took it out of my check,” she said.
Hampton realizes not everyone will be as lucky as she was. And that luck continues into a happy second marriage and the help she”s received from the community starting her store.
Now she wants you to come in to Lynn”s Den so she can repay some of that help and you can pick up your clothes.
“Somebody”s name is on everything in here. I just want them to come get it,” she said.
Lynn”s Den, located at 119 Dr. D.L. Conner Drive, is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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