MILLEDGEVILLE — Business kicked off with a bang in 2003 for Villane Waldhauer, but she started feeling the effects of the down economy five years later when customers slowed down their purchasing habits of buying her unique jewelry and accessory pieces. Business partners Waldhauer and Susan Renfroe are in the midst of clearing out Villane’s Jewelry & Unique Accessories and will officially close the downtown boutique Saturday.
“The business grew really quickly the first few years and was doing well, until 2008 when the economy went south, and then so did the business. Things were so good, and it just stunned me the impact of the down economy. Everything just changed — the amount people bought and the frequency customers came in,” Renfroe said. “Customers would bring in their formal dress or outfits, and we would accessorize them from head to toe; that’s something I’m going to miss. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet after we close.”
A Milledgeville native and resident, Waldhauer jump-started her career as a nurse practitioner, but decided to turn her passion of creating glass beads into a full-time art business, which eventually progressed into fashion jewelry, purses, scarves and sunglasses. Waldhauer established Villane’s Jewelry & Unique Accessories in 2003 next to Amici Italian Cafe on West Hancock Street.
“At that time, I had college students working with me. From the very beginning, I made money and I was actually kind of shocked,” Waldhauer said. “Susan came on board as a business partner in 2006, and we quickly became best friends. She is a real fashionista, and we’re both buyers.”
Renfroe, also a local native, said she couldn’t find a better merchant to work for who sold one-of-a-kind products than Villane’s Jewelry and saw it as a perfect fit.
“When I first started working, I began in fashion. I worked for a store called The Vogue in Sandersville and they used to have a store in Milledgeville a long time ago. I was also in the medical field for many years before I returned to fashion,” Renfroe said. “Before I started working with Villane, I was a customer at the store and I just couldn’t believe how unique everything was and how great the prices were. Everything was unique to the store, and you couldn’t just go anywhere and pick up the same thing that Villane’s had.”
Currently, prices for all items throughout the entire boutique are 50 percent off, including earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets, scarves, sunglasses, hair accessories and displays.
“We announced our closing on Facebook on Monday [last week] and already three-fourths of our stuff is gone,” Waldhauer said Friday. “We still have plenty left, but it has gone so quickly. Our regular customers are showing their support, and they’re stocking up personally and they’re buying gifts for others.”
As the merchant's neighbor, The 42nd Floor owners Adam and Lindsey Smith will take over the soon-to-be vacant space to expand their print-making business. They hope to begin renovations immediately after Villane’s Jewelry is completely empty in order to open the larger store by the beginning of April.
“I’m going to miss downtown, the people and our customers. I’ve reconnected with so many people here that knew me when I was a little girl, and the young people that know my children,” Waldhauer said. “After we close, I hope to increase some of my nursing hours at Gray Health & Rehabilitation, and get back to China painting and glasswork.”
The store will continue to operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 5 p.m. Saturday before officially closing up shop Saturday, March 16.
“It’s just miraculous how long we’ve stayed open. We’ve had customers coming to say goodbye and some of them even cry and get emotional,” the duo said. “We just want to thank all of our customers and the community for 10 wonderful years and for being our friends and a part of our lives. We’re going to miss everyone.”
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