Rachel Ginn wasn’t sure what to expect when she went into work Sept. 1 at Thomas Brothers Starkville on Highway 12 West.
But apart from the congratulatory FaceTime calls from friends and family, Ginn’s workday was pretty mundane. She answered phone calls.
She worked with customers.
“I woke up thinking it might be weird, but I walked in and it was literally just the most normal day,” Ginn said. “There was no big anything to it.”
Ginn’s first day owning her very own store had gone off without a hitch.
The 27-year-old, who moved from Pontotoc to Starkville in 2017, bought the formal clothing store from original owner Sam Thomas less than two months ago.
“It’s a longtime dream come true to own this,” she said.
Learning the ropes
Thomas — who also owns Kay’s Kreations in Tupelo and a Thomas Bros. store in Oxford — was ready to take a step back.
He considered closing the Starkville franchise, but at a Christmas party in December 2021, he called Ginn into his office. He wanted to get her thoughts: Did she have any interest in buying the store?
At the time, Ginn was thinking of leaving. She’d been working for Thomas since February 2018 and had been a manager since June of that year.
She considered the offer, and in May, she took Thomas up on it. Ginn used some of her own money — paying off the first year of a business loan already — as well as money her grandparents put into an account for her since she was born, which became hers when she turned 25.
The sale became official at the start of September, and with it came a laundry list of responsibilities.
Business license? Received. Sales tax permit? Obtained. Inspections? Completed.
Ginn said those who helped her get situated made the process. Starkville Utilities, thankfully for Ginn, was among them.
“It’s just kind of like, ‘Hey, just bought a business. I don’t really know what to do, but I need air and light and water,’” Ginn said.
As it turned out, Ginn knew more about running Thomas Bros. than she initially thought.
She restocked the store, did some decorating and had to re-establish customers’ accounts, but little else changed.
“I’ve been here for a while, so I knew pretty much how it worked,” Ginn said. “I know what to expect when it comes to our bigger months, our slower months, the trends and everything.”
She has worked to expand Thomas Bros.’ social media footprint, too.
Ginn set up an Instagram page for the store and has students from Starkville High School help create content for a Thomas Bros. TikTok account, established in mid-October.
The store didn’t even have a Facebook page until two years ago; Ginn implemented that.
“That was one of the things where I was like, ‘I really think this could help,’” she said. “For Facebook, that’s really targeting, like, your parents. Kids nowadays, I don’t even know if they still do Facebook.”
Finding a passion
Ginn has a business background.
In May 2017, she graduated from Itawamba Community College with her associate’s degree in business.
She came to Starkville that fall intending to take a semester off, then get her bachelor’s from Mississippi State.
“I never did,” Ginn said. “But I went to school for business, and now I own one, so I can’t be too upset about it.”
At first, she set out to study something completely different.
Ginn remembered being intrigued by the physical therapy she once underwent for her knees.
She set out to study physical therapy but was “quickly humbled” by an anatomy and physiology class.
“I am much more capable of telling you what colors match and what size you are rather than where, you know, your femur is and what you need to do to fix it,” Ginn said.
Those are good traits to have in Ginn’s role, which includes fitting and measuring customers, ordering clothes from Kay’s for the store, picking out accessories and occasionally delivering clothes to some regular customers.
Ginn hopes to hire someone to help her with the store eventually, because it can be demanding. Thomas Bros. is open 33 hours a week, but Ginn’s responsibilities often extend beyond operating hours.
When she has neither work nor appointments, her hobbies include walking her dog Brewster at her parents’ house in Maben or shopping with a friend to decorate her store.
“I like to go to Belles and get my nails done,” Ginn said. “Sometimes, I will sit on the couch and watch the Great British Baking Show all day. It kind of depends.”
A strong community
Ginn has already achieved a lot.
But she has bigger plans.
Fascinated with wedding dresses since 10th grade, Ginn said she’d like to incorporate that into what Thomas Bros. does. Currently, the store offers prom and formal dresses but only caters to grooms and groomsmen when it comes to weddings.
Ginn hopes to change that, and she eventually hopes to expand from the small storefront along Highway 12.
“I would love to, one day, either build or buy and have my own standalone thing,” she said.
For now, though, Ginn knows how well she’s doing.
Occasionally, those who come in are surprised someone so young is manning the counter — let alone owning the store.
Ginn described one such recent experience with Rosey Baby owner Curt Crissey.
“He was like, ‘You’re pretty young to be working up here by yourself,’” Ginn recalled. “I was like, ‘Well, I actually just bought it.’ He was kind of taken aback, but he was really sweet, gave me a lot of advice. That was a nice little connection.”
Those connections have abounded in Ginn’s five years in Starkville.
She’s gotten to know business owners nearby and around town, and she’s still close with her mentor; Ginn said she calls Thomas roughly once a week with questions.
“I have a really good community here and in the surrounding area, so I’m happy to be here,” she said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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