Sheila Harper is president of Ellie Bing LLC, which she began in 2009 and describes as a “lifestyle boutique,” due to its variety of items sold such as clothing, jewelry, art and gifts. Much of which is designed or created by local artists, as she strives to maintain a community atmosphere and fun vibe within the shop.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I have lived all over the place, and after graduating college I got on a boat and sailed to Grenadines and ended on the Virgin Islands where I met my husband. We now have three kids, including twins.
Some of the places I’ve lived include Connecticut, Philly and Atlanta. We moved to Jacksonville years ago and I’ve been here now longer than any placed I’ve ever lived before.
What led you to get involved with Ellie Bing LLC?
It all started in 2009 when I decided to make the switch from just design to jewelry and custom jewelry at that time. We now sell jewelry, clothing art and gifts. Basically, any and everything someone would want.
We have two stores in both Ponte Vedra Beach and Jacksonville Beach, and it has really evolved into a lifestyle boutique.
Our Ponte Vedra Beach location is in Sawgrass Village, which is something that had been a long time coming, and we are happy to finally be there.
We opened at Sawgrass Village in October 2021, and it has been a great first year at that location.
However, our destination location continues to be Jax Beach, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
It also helps that my family’s support has been there every step of the way.
What is it that makes it a “lifestyle boutique,” and what goes into that?
Lifestyle boutique is a new term used that means we sell pretty much everything. It’s fun because I get to sell anything I want and everything I love. If I see something that I really like or I think people will be into, I can start selling it in the store.
What is the store’s primary mission?
I like to focus on local people that are starting out making a designing or making a certain product, and I love working with the local artists. To be a place where they can showcase their work is so special.
I’m picky, but it’s also nice to be able to focus on helping people out as they get their start. It’s kind of my way that I’m able to give back.
How have you seen Ellie Bing grow over the years?
I was completely naive when we opened back in 2009, because that was when the crash happened, and it was just a really bad economy to be opening up a business.
It was not an overnight success by any means, but we’ve stuck with it and the community has supported us over the years.
I remember my first sale that I made was $62 and I thought it was the biggest thing in the world because somebody bought something from me.
After three years in business, I started to look into more things with a beachy vibe and it has just evolved from there into far more.
I’m still learning everyday about ways to make the boutique even better, including strengthening our website. It’s one of those things we’ve slowly but surely continued to grow.
I would like to have a wholesale jewelry business down the road.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m going to continue to do this until it is no longer fun anymore. I like interacting with the public and the people I work with make it very easy.
Our entire staff is just really friendly, which creates a certain vibe and environment enjoyable to both work and shop in.
A lot of my employees have been with me for a long time, and some since we started this thing. That goes a long way in creating such an environment.
I never say that they (employees) work for me, but instead they work with me. They all really care and are just as passionate about the business as I am.
Over time a relationship is built with your customers, and we’ll even help them out by calling them when something comes in that they’ve been looking for.
What do you enjoy most about living in the North Florida area?
I have moved around a lot, and the quality of life here is what it’s all about, and the people are just so friendly.
You have the beach and river on the other side, which makes it so unique and great for getting out and enjoying the nature.
There’s a reason why this is the place I’ve been the longest. Because there is no place like it.