The building that hoses clothing boutique Denker Dry Goods in Southern Pines has a long history — it was once home to The Strawberry Barn, another ladies clothing store; and the basement used to house an arcade and a model train shop.
It became Denker Dry Goods in 1991, and some time after took over the 1,000-square-foot space that housed a soda fountain next door. But by 2017, even finding parts for a vintage soda machine became a struggle, and the shop was scaled down to the original store.
About two years since the consolidation, here’s what second generation owner, Kara Denker Hodges, had to say about the future of her family business and retail downtown.
What was the concept behind the store? How did you come up with the name Denker Dry Goods?
We actually liked a clothing line called Cambridge Dry Goods. It was one of our basic lines when we first opened the store and it just felt like old-time, downtown area, dry goods store.
How would you describe Denker Dry Goods in three words?
Affordable, Fun, and Stylish.
What is your process when it comes to buying for Denker Dry Goods?
When we look to buy more clothes for the store, we always try to see what is in style. We like to stay up to date with what our customers want. We do this by looking at new trends on Pinterest, seeing what is new at the various markets — whether it be in New York, Atlanta or Las Vegas — what is popular, and what styles are being revitalized. I always like to ask my girls that work in the store what they like, and if they think certain things would do well in the store. They are very honest and a lot of the time they give me additional suggestions. They know what is popular and what people in our area are looking for when it comes to clothing.
How is Denker’s adapting to the influence of the internet on the retail world?
It’s been a struggle, especially since we’ve been in business so long, since even before there was such a thing as the internet. We’ve just been adjusting our customer base and we have an online store, but we get more foot traffic. A lot of people will go online and look at [products] online and then come in and shop. Social media has been great because it’s a lot of free advertising, and you can get a lot more pictures out there. That way people can see things and then they wanna come in to try them on.
What would you say is unique about Denker’s?
I feel like we sell [for] a wide variety of ages. Everyone from a daughter to their grandmother can shop in here. We try to accommodate across the board. I feel like we’re friendly and low-key. It’s easy to come in and feel like our clothing and our staff are relatable. You don’t go in and feel like you don’t belong.
What made you want to continue in your mother’s footsteps?
I developed a passion to run the business from always being in and out of the store when it belonged to my mother. I wanted to continue the legacy that she created for women’s clothing in and around Southern Pines.
What would you say is the future of Denker Dry Goods?
I hope to build a stronger online business, but I hope to still build on the base and be a part of this community that we’ve been in for so long and supported. As well as to help to grow this downtown area. When we opened up, the only person that has probably been here longer than us is The Country Bookstore and The Ice Cream Parlor. Everything else is new down here. We’ve been here so long, so we just want to continue to grow and change with the area and what its needs are.