Gayle Burke, owner of Mimi’s on Main and The Mercantile, has turned a love of antiquing into thriving businesses on Conroe’s Main Street.
“I just love old things,” Burke said. “I think I was born in the wrong era. My mother was in the [antique] business for years and years … I just kind of grew up with it, and I love it.”
Her first store, Mimi’s on Main, carries mainly antiques and gifts, and the store’s walls and aisles are lined floor to ceiling with memorabilia from the early 1900s to the present day. After realizing Mimi’s on Main was expanding past the building’s capacity, Burke opened a second store one block down last November.
The Mercantile store carries home goods, such as furniture and home decor.[/caption]
Burke said many of the items in her shops are found during trips to other communities.[/caption]
“We’ve done so well here that we’ve run out of space,” Burke said. “So we opened our sister store, [The Mercantile], down the street. [That store] has more furniture and home decor. It’s urban loft meets shabby chic.”
Both Mimi’s on Main and The Mercantile carry a large selection of furniture, home decor, antiques, gifts, glassware and clothing. Prices range from under $10 for small gift items to $1,295 for a marble dining table. The stores also carry a number of product lines from local and nearby artisans.
Charlene Payne, the manager at Mimi’s on Main, said the stores have become a big draw for out-of-town visitors. It is not uncommon for customers to come in from out of the state or even out of the country.
“You would not believe how many people come here from [out of town],” Payne said. “They come here on vacation because Conroe has become a destination. I’ve been here for 37 years, and I am just totally blown away. We’re no longer just little Conroe.”
Like many of the antiques inside, the store’s building carries a long history. Before Burke opened her store, the building had been in the Muse family since 1919. The Muse family has since been incorporated into the store’s name.
“My grandchildren call me Mimi, but when I was looking to [move into the building] I met with Hershey Muse,” Burke said. “I told him what I was going to name the store, and he told me his grandmother’s name was Mimi Ferguson. So I guess we were supposed to be here.”
Burke said she travels to markets in Dallas and Atlanta to source most of the items in the stores. She also works with antiques dealers who bring in different items for all tastes and styles.
“When people come in, we want [the stores] to have a hometown feel so they can stop in and just visit,” Burke said. “It’s a fun experience.”