Talk of the Town - November 2021
-story by Lisa Monti
photos by Ellis Anderson
A lot of decisions went into the new Fleurty Girl location at 216 Main Street in Bay St. Louis: the architectural details; the coastal touches on light fixtures and wallpaper; the store’s name spelled out in authentic New Orleans street-name tiles at the entrance.
But the riskiest choice for owner Lauren Haydel was taking her husband’s suggestion to paint the building exterior in Fleurty Girl green (aka Sherwin Williams “Outrageous Green”).
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Since the new location is near the outskirts of Main Street’s retail district, Lauren wanted to be sure people could find the store.
“I thought and thought about it,” she said. “It’s a very bold color to slap on the entire exterior. Usually we just paint the door green.”
If the bold paint choice turned out to be a mistake, it was one Lauren said she’d have to live with. But when the painters were done applying the bright green and white trim, she knew it was the right choice.
“You can’t miss us now,” she said. “And I love it.”
Renovations to the historic home-turned-retail-store have been underway for two years. The entrance, previously enclosed, is open again, restoring the building’s front porch. Lauren said it was a game-changer.
“It’s very important to me to bring the house back to what it would have looked like originally,” she said. “It needs a front porch. I envision people sitting in rocking chairs on the porch, especially husbands while their wives shop.”
The new location has 800 square feet of retail space; not as large as the Lakeside Mall flagship store, but it has the distinction of being the first Fleurty Girl outside of Louisiana. Lauren famously started her business more than 12 years ago as a single mom of three selling T-shirts online. She bankrolled the business with a $2,000 tax refund.
Today the eight Fleurty Girl locations thrive, selling ever-changing merchandise that celebrates New Orleans-style good times with T shirts, houseware, gifts, clothing, jewelry, books and shoes.
When she bought the Main Street building, which was previously the home to another beloved New Orleans business, California Drawstrings, Lauren also bought a small law office building on Main Street as a rental property. She decided on a whim to open a temporary Fleurty Girl shop on weekends when the downtown fills with visitors strolling among the shops, galleries and restaurants.
The response to the little shop was overwhelming, in spite of the pandemic. “If I had known how much Bay St. Louis loves Fleurty Girl and how much Bay St. Louis has grown,” Lauren said, she probably would have carved out more retail space in the new store at 216 Main.
Instead, she came up with Fleurty Girl’s first “Shop/Stay/Play” business model, mixing retail with three vacation rentals collectively called the Main Street Suites.
Upstairs, in the rear of the building, there are two identical suites with a bed, bath and coffee nook, with a shared kitchen in between the mirror-image accommodations. Lauren has named the suites for two of her entrepreneurial neighbors and fellow “strong women.”
The Martha Suite overlooks Main Street with a view of floral designer Martha Whitney Butler’s award-winning shop, The French Potager. The Jenise Suite, facing out toward Toulme Street, is named for ceramic artist Jenise McCardell of Clay Creations, located next door to Fleurty Girl inside Gallery 220.
A third rental located on the ground floor is named Blue Fish Bungalow. It’s a full studio living space with its own kitchen and whimsical flounder wallpaper. Each of the three Main Street suites sleeps two people and will be available for short-term rentals beginning early next year.
Another major asset of the property is the She-Shed, a former warehouse space now sporting Fleurty Girl green. Lauren envisions it as a multipurpose space for popup classes and other community events. The adjacent common area, a welcoming space behind the store, is perfect for hanging out and enjoying the sunshine or the stars.
Lauren said the two-year renovation process has been intense, with countless decisions and details. “I thought of everything possible with the space: the fun wallpaper, the names of the suites.”
Her goal has always been to bring the property out of the shadows, polish it up and let the building’s beauty shine again.
“Now she’s ready to be shared with the rest of the world,” she said. “I’m glad she’s a grande dame again.”
With final touches underway this week, Lauren and the Fleurty Girl crew will host a fitting celebration for its Grand Reopening. On Friday at 9:30 am, everyone is invited to join the second line featuring New Orleans trombonist Glen David Andrews from the temporary store on Main Street and traveling to the new store.
“We are very excited to have Glen second-line from one store to the new store and start a new chapter,” Lauren said.
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