Cynthia Elliot Boutique Celebrates 25 Years on McKinney Square

7 Aug

Cynthia Elliott BoutiqueCelebrating 25 years in business is always an impressive milestone. But when that business is a small mom-and-pop shop on a downtown square away from the interstate where even larger businesses often don’t make it, celebrating 25 years in business is an incredible accomplishment.

Cynthia and Steve VanLandingham, the owners of Cynthia Elliot Boutique, have certainly seen huge changes throughout McKinney in the last 25 years, and of course, a huge metamorphosis on the downtown square.

When they first opened their business, the population of McKinney was 26,500, and the downtown square was not much more than an outlet center with antique stores mixed in with many buildings in disrepair and even some boarded up. The square was also home to three restaurants – El Juarez (still in business), Kam’s Chinese Restaurant and Lynn’s Kitchen.
Both VanLandinghams found themselves without their corporate careers during the late 1980s when so many businesses were struggling, laying off and realigning staff, Cynthia recently told a gathering of downtown business owners.

“We took a leap of faith. In 1990, we started our first business in a 300-square-foot basement location at Tennessee and Virginia,” Cynthia said, adding that by the end of the first year, they had taken over the full 1200-square-foot basement.

Next came the purchase of the old Vermillion building on the north side of the square. Steve redesigned the interior of the building to accommodate a two-bedroom loft as well as the new location for Cynthia Elliot Boutique.

“The city council was quite surprised that anyone would want to live above their business, but it was perfect for us,” Cynthia said. Before long, the couple were bestowed the title of “Square Keepers.”

Their business grew and flourished, thanks to Cynthia’s careful selection of fashions she knew her customers would love. Her degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising (from Texas Tech University) gave her the foundation she needed to build her business, and her special knack for seeking out unusual merchandise that wasn’t seen everywhere else has allowed her to build a solid and devoted clientele.

“Even with the ups and downs in the economy, I would shop till I dropped at market so my clients wouldn’t have to. They called me ‘Cherry Picker’ at Market, because my assortments were so unique,” Cynthia said. “Even in difficult times, I sought out quality lines that were affordable for my clients, something I still work hard to do.” Owner Cynthia VanLandingham

The VanLandinghams were thrilled to see the resurgence of interest in the square that began a little more than a decade ago, with many new owners of buildings also opening businesses in them, not just renting them to other businesses. Interest also turned to renovating the old courthouse, which had been boarded up for more than 20 years at that point. Cynthia was involved with the original 4-B Tax board, working with the group to see that the building was restored. Through a joint effort of the 4-B Tax board, City, and County funds, the old courthouse reopened as the McKinney Performing Arts Center in 2006, which added its special vibrancy to the square.

Cynthia believes in supporting her fellow merchants and restaurants.

“My clients shopping experience is not all about my store. It is about what [the square as a whole] has to offer them. My staff and I recommend restaurants to dine at, other shops to shop at, and [attractions] that might interest our visitors,” Cynthia said.

The main life lesson Cynthia has learned in her 25 years of business on the square is how to spread joy to her clients and friends.

“We help them find beautiful things to wear that make them happy! This improves their self-image and self-esteem and images,” Cynthia said, adding that a hug for her clients coming in and going out of her shop is a part of the joyful experience at Cynthia Elliott Boutique.

Cynthia is a mainstay at the monthly Main Street Business Meetings when business owners meet to share information and ideas. Cynthia is always eager to help new businesses on the square by offering them her ideas, support and lessons learned throughout her years of business here.

“Her family and business are incredible assets to Downtown and to all of McKinney,” McKinney Main Street Executive Director Amy Rosenthal said. “We are so fortunate to have them on the square!”

Throughout the month of August, Cynthia is hosting a variety of specials in her boutique, including special discounts and door prizes. Follow her store on Facebook to learn of all being offered during this 25th anniversary celebration.

Also coming this month are features on other businesses with August “birthdays”:

  • Spoons Café, which celebrates 12 years of business on the downtown square for owner and McKinney girl Karen Klassen, who first opened her comfort food eatery in a small space on East Louisiana before moving into the converted 1920s Texas Power and Light building at the corner of Kentucky and Louisiana where it continues to thrive;
  • Diggin’ It, celebrating five years just north of the downtown square, offering all sorts of funky home décor, garden plants, clothing and jewelry; and
  • Munzee Marketplace, which celebrates its first year of business on the square, growing from a convenience “concept store” so the Munzee staff would have a place to grab a quick sandwich, bag of chips, candy bar and can of soda to a special niche store offering fresh produce, organic dairy products, locally-produced beer, and coming soon, locally made sandwiches in their own special kitchen!
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