‘Clothes are food for the soul’: Boutique owner Eula Mae keeps alive her mother’s memory | Local News

LAUREN JOHNSON

Owner of the Eula Mae (Eua la la) boutique in Opelika, LaTara Hardnett first started her clothing business in 2017 by selling clothes from the trunk of her car.

Hardnett, a 44-year-old Opelika native, is also a real estate agent at Three Sixty and after-school coordinator at Dean Road Elementary for grades K-2.

In December 2021, she opened a boutique outside a store at 109 South Eighth Street and it became the first black-owned boutique in downtown Opelika, which Hardnett says means everything to her.

“Financially with the economy, it’s very difficult for any business right now, but especially to be an independently owned and operated black business,” she said.

Although Hardnett faced challenges, she said what she loved most was meeting the women and families who came to the store looking for the perfect garment.

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She loves seeing customer reactions to their purchases and seeing how the experience can turn a bad day into a good day.

Hardnett never really thought about opening a clothing store until he had his own daughter. While shopping with her daughter, Laila Haynes, she said the high prices made it difficult, especially as a single mother.

It was then that she had the idea to start her business and offer affordable and stylish clothes for women and children.

“Clothes are like food for the soul,” Hardnett said. “When you’re shopping and women come here and they’ve had a long day or they’ve had a conflict or just a tough time, they can come and do something for themselves. Shopping is like one of those things that soothes the soul. It really is therapy.

Hardnett said she and her mother Eula Mae both loved clothes, so she named the boutique after her to carry on her memory and legacy. Saturday, July 16 marks the anniversary of her mother’s birthday.

On September 6, 1996, Eula Mae suffered a massive heart attack while working at East Alabama Mental Health and died. Hardnett was 18 at the time.

“Everything I do is for my mother,” she said. “As soon as you walk in, you see his picture.”

This photo of Eula Mae is framed and displayed on a shelf on the back wall for customers to see when they first open the doors.

The store is also family owned. Hardnett along with her daughter and three of her aunts – Virginia Dowdell, Lillie Bailey and LaTraysa Love – are all working together to honor Eula Mae through the business.

“It bridges the gap and brings us together,” Hardnett said.

Eula Mae’s boutique recently won the Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s minority case of the quarter for the spring quarter of 2022.

“It meant everything. It just continued my mother’s legacy,” Hardnett said.

Haynes, Hardnett’s 18-year-old daughter, said she shares a passion for fashion with her mother and believes wearing the right outfit can give people confidence.

“I feel like we’re saying don’t judge a book by its cover, but we definitely judge by how you look on the outside,” she said. “So I think presentation is key. How you carry yourself and what you look like every day is important, so these clothes will definitely be in place when I go to court one day.

Haynes recently graduated from Auburn High School in May and plans to attend LSU in the fall and join the law program as part of African American Studies.

In high school, Haynes was not only a student and a cheerleader, but also worked at the shop. She says she likes being able to help her mother.

“My mom definitely instilled hard work and no slacking in doing what I have to do to be the person I am,” Haynes said.

One of the reasons Haynes wants to pursue a career in law is so she can help others like her mother.

Eula Mae’s Boutique partners with different churches and other community groups in the area that help women struggling with addiction and in rehabilitation.

“I try to reward them monthly or during holidays with clothes because, like I said, clothes to me are more like therapy,” Hardnett said. “Eula Mae’s is more than clothes.”

Hardnett said the store doesn’t have set hours, but is instead open based on availability, need and by appointment. She posts store hours daily on the Eula Mae’s (Eua la la) Facebook page. Here, customers can prepay for their items and collect them from the store.

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