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Building an apparel empire
Laura Lanier opens third clothing store in Boro
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Laura Lanier is shown inside her 'Dish' clothing store. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Local retail entrepreneur Laura Lanier recently opened her third clothing boutique in Statesboro. Dish is the latest installment in Lanier’s mission to provide varied and unique shopping opportunities to Statesboro residents and its college population.
    “Each one of our stores has a different feel to it, almost like a different theme,” Lanier said. “Runway is more brand oriented, and it is a little more expensive. I would say that Social is more preppy with brighter, more tailored clothing. And, our newest store Dish has a more Bohemian, flowy feel to it. Each one has its own character, which gives shoppers a different experience.”
    Lanier bought her first store Runway in 2007 from its founder Gin Starling. Runway is located in the Market District, in the section fronting Fair Road. This past February, Lanier founded Social which is in the Market District as well, located in the same shopping complex as Mellow Mushroom. Dish is located in the Woodlands shopping center on Highway 301 South, in the former location of Bella Bikini.
    “I feel like in a way, we have surrounded the grounds of the university, and we are in two very convenient shopping locations,” she said. “I love each of our locations, and I can’t say that one is better than the other.”
    Alli Yatto started working for Lanier as an intern this past August. When Yatto graduated from Georgia Southern this past December, she accepted a position as manager of Social.
    “I think Social is a very special store,” Yatto said. “We have trendy clothes for high school and college students in addition to a lot of accessories. We really don’t serve just one age bracket. There is something here for everyone regardless of age or size.”
    Niki Guarino has been shopping with Lanier since opening her State Farm agency in the Market District last August.
    “I tell everyone that I am a recovering tom boy, and I just didn’t really have a vision as to what would look good on me,” Guarino said. “Laura can find things that are very flattering on me, clothing that I would have never picked out. Her taste is impeccable.”
    Guarino said Lanier employs sales associates who also have that ability. “You don’t have to get Laura when you go into one of her stores, anyone in there will do a wonderful job helping you,” she said. “The clothes that I have bought from her are my favorite things.”
    Lanier plans to carry a number of house ware items at Dish, something she hasn’t really done in the other two stores.
    “I want Dish to have items that people who are just getting out on their own can afford to buy to put in their apartment or homes,” she said. “From pretty candles to cloth napkins, it is the small things that can make a big difference.”
    Lanier opened Dish a few minutes early this past Saturday morning so James Briley could purchase a gift certificate to give his girlfriend as a graduation present.
    “I just have no idea what to give her, but I know that she loves this store,” Briley said. “So, I came in to buy a gift certificate. I can’t go wrong with that. I think this will make her very happy.”
    Lanier said each of her stores is doing very well, and she attributes that to both the community and the university.
    “Statesboro and Georgia Southern have been very good to me,” Lanier said. “I know that people think that I am crazy, because I am opening clothing stores in the middle of a tough economy, but we have been very fortunate, and things have gone well. You just have to work hard, and hope you have a good eye to stock your stores with things that will sell, not necessarily what you like.”
    Lanier said like many boutiques today, she presents an “edited” inventory.
    “We don’t have a lot of racks of clothing, and our stores aren’t crowded with merchandise,” she said. “It’s editing, and I really try to present a select inventory with price points that I know people can afford. The dresses in Dish and Social are priced in the $39.95 range, and the shoes in the $29.95 range. It is great to have someone come in here, and be able to afford a dress, shoes, and an accessory. This is just a lot of fun.”
    Lanier is married to Joe Lanier, and they are expecting their first child in September. Lanier graduated from the University of Georgia in 2000.