Lee Tracy boutique celebrates 45 years of business this year.
Lee Tracy McLaughlin is, in fact, the real Lee Tracy and her name means more than the title of her popular store. Lee Tracy represents hard work, determination, and family.
Lee Tracy boutique originally began as a Connie Shoe concept store in 1978 in Jackson.
“As the years went by and the buying habits of our customers changed, we realized we wanted to be more,” McLaughlin shared. “I began a small apparel manufacturing business here on the Coast. And the Lee Tracy brand was born. In the early days, we only sold the knit separates that we had manufactured here in Ocean Springs, but we began to branch out into other accessories and other lines of apparel. When the Grand Casino invited us to a part of their hotel lobby shops, we really began putting on the Ritz!”
Life and business ownership are not without setbacks at times, and Lee Tracy, along with many other Gulf Coast businesses, experienced significant setbacks when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
“We were on track to grow with the Grand Casino. At the time of Hurricane Katrina, we had four stores in their hotels in Biloxi and Gulfport. That all went away on August 29, 2005,” McLaughlin recounted.
“It is a very long tale about how we recovered from the storm, and it took more grit than we even knew we possessed. Mike and I made a move to Pensacola in order to survive and get opened back up. As a family, we made huge sacrifices. Mike and I leased our home and moved. Katie commuted to Pensacola for two years with babies in tow, and Michael left the area to find another career. Fortunately, the Gulf Coast did recover, and we were able to expand back into this market in 2010 in Ocean Springs. The growth trend would return quickly after that.”
“While the Coast was recovering and rebuilding, we were always on the lookout for where we would eventually reopen,” McLaughlin’s daughter, Katie Hinkel, shared. “From 2005 to 2010, there was no Lee Tracy on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and at that time, we expanded to Florida. During those years, I went to work for Singing River Health System, running their gift shops. The relationships made during that time would later lead to Lee Tracy’s Remedy Gift Boutiques, and these shops opened in June 2020 in the middle of the pandemic.”
45 years in business is quite an accomplishment that certainly takes a village, or in this case, a family.
“Owning a small family business and trying to grow a brand is a twenty-four-seven commitment. Mike and I worked it side by side as we raised our kids, sometimes with way too much shop talk at the dinner table,” McLaughlin said. “The girls worked with us in high school and on college breaks. Then our daughter, Katie, came in full time after she graduated Ole Miss, and she brought a fresh face to the company and honed the brand with her younger touch.”
“It’s funny, now we are leaning on Maggie (Katie’s daughter and Lee’s granddaughter) for some of the fresh face, young vibe,” Katie shared. “She attended her first market in the summer of 2022 and took to it right away! The customers have been very receptive to her selections.”
“The next generation of Lee Tracy has all been put to work in one way or another in these businesses,” Katie shared. “Whether they work the sales floor, file invoices, receive and transfer products from store to store, or organize the stockroom, they are learning the importance of cultivating a business. We hope they are taking it all in and that a few of them will be eager to come in and take over the reins in the next decade or so. Nothing would make us more proud!”
Speaking of family, Lee Tracy has been dressing generations since 1978!
“We absolutely have families we have been honored and humbled to dress,” Lee said. “One local family has five generations that all select some part of their Christmas giving from our stores every year. It is humbling to say the least!”
Lee Tracy has been helping women of all ages find high-end fashion at a reasonable price. Believing that a woman’s wardrobe is a distinct element of their personality and should be treated as such.
“Our goal has always been to treat our customers like family. They become our friends. We know the ebb and flow of their lives, and they know ours,” McLaughlin said. “We have sold them their first big-girl shoes and are still being asked to dress them for their granddaughter’s wedding parties. We have been there for children’s births and cried with them through loved ones’ deaths. It is important to us to make certain our culture is welcoming, inclusive, professional and fun!”
Lee Tracy is celebrating 45 years of fashion with a new door! 618 Delmas Ave in Pascagoula will be the latest location, making Pascagoula lucky number seven for the Lee Tracy brand and business.
“A ribbon cutting was just recently held. We are excited to be a part of the renaissance that is happening in Pascagoula right now,” McLaughlin said. “It is exciting to see great changes in Pascagoula, and we are thrilled to be a part of the town’s future success.”