The history of a legendary Rio Grande Valley bootmaker provides the backdrop for the Bootique, a clothing and gift shop in downtown Raymondville. The store is in a portion of the brick building where Abraham Rios crafted custom footwear for decades.
The building’s current owners, Cruz and Sonya Tijerina, ran the Bootique until they sold the business to Elma Chavez, former director of the Raymondville Chamber of Commerce. The Tijerinas still operate the Boot Company Bar & Grill adjacent to the Bootique.
“My whole thing was to complement what the restaurant is,” Chavez said. “It has a lot of old, vintage stuff in there, so we wanted to keep the store in that same tone.” From the time she took over in early 2018, Chavez kept the atmosphere and décor with a feel for the ranching history of Willacy County. She recently took that to a new level.
Chavez knocked a hole in a wall in March and expanded the Bootique to create room for more western wear in its own section. “We have ropings and rodeos all the time,” she said. “We have a lot of business for western wear and ranching wear because of our area, so now we have the western wear section.”
Other changes have been made over time. Since most of the merchandise is women’s clothing, purses and accessories, Chavez started carrying a wider range of sizes and styles for women. She added some children’s and baby items. Custom gift baskets are available. And for the first time, the Bootique began offering a small selection of men’s outdoor and hunting apparel. “Pretty much everything we have introduced we have been lucky and people have been receptive to it.” Chavez said.
After almost 20 years as the chamber director, Chavez said that experience helped prepare her to run her own business. “I figured if I taught people about business and we taught business seminars, that’s all information I could use. And if we don’t succeed, shame on us, because we taught it for years.”
Her daughter Crissy Santana left a marketing job with a senior living facility to join her mother. Together they made changes and added new merchandise, and leveraged Santana’s social media savvy as a marketing tool. “We have changed what it was to what it is,” Chavez said. “And I have a weapon that a lot of people don’t.”
Each week when shipments of merchandise arrive, Santana hosts a social media live stream. Usually on Thursdays, she uses the medium to display and talk up the new offerings. “The lives create an urgency to come and shop,” Chavez said. “While Crissy is doing the lives, people are messaging us saying thing like, ‘I want that one in this size,’ or asking, ‘how many do you have left?’ We have regular customers that are just through social media, so that’s been really great for us. That guarantees that we are going to have a great three-day weekend.”
It has also helped establish a repeat customer base that includes people who are willing to travel from around the Valley to shop at the Bootique. “There is a saying that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers,” Chavez said. “I promise you that is how it is here. They are going to come in every week to see what’s new. So, we are just kind of making it happen.”