By Roberto Hugo González
From antiques dealer to the owner of an upscale boutique, the journey of Kay Jancik has been filled with evolution, learning, and growth. Born and raised in Pharr, Texas, Kay’s roots are deep within the Rio Grande Valley. Yet, her tale is as much about community and heart as it is about retail.
Kay’s initial encounter with retail was dealing antiques. It was a business that demanded travel and flexibility. However, life took an unexpected turn when her mother fell ill. The situation necessitated her to stay close to home and rethink her career choice. Fate led her to work at a store named Lupe’s. A few years under Lupe’s mentorship, and the torch was passed on. Kay purchased the store, marking the inception of Oh Kay’s Boutique, 31 years ago.
The journey wasn’t always smooth. The boutique’s original location was at the corner of 10th and Vine. But as the business flourished, there was a pressing need for a larger space and better parking facilities. In 1991, the boutique shifted to its current location, thanks to an invitation to expand from Sylvia Johnson, a former customer and friend. Complimenting the building’s quality and the inviting ambiance, Kay believes the location has played an integral role in shaping the brand’s identity.
However, the backbone of Oh Kay’s success isn’t just its strategic location but its carefully curated range of exclusive brands. MacKenzie-Childs, an American brand known for its hand-crafted items, remains the boutique’s mainstay. Kay inherited it from Lupe, a stroke of providence that brought immense recognition to her store. Although some customers are under the impression that MacKenzie-Childs is the sole offering, the store showcases other esteemed brands like: Mary Rose Young, Annieglass, and Juliska, plus a plethora of hand selected items. Each brand is selected with a focus on quality and uniqueness, ensuring that they not only cater to bridal registries but also offer a diverse range of products to suit various needs.
When asked about what makes Oh Kay’s stand out in a sea of upscale boutiques, Kay’s answer is clear – the handpicked products with a distinct handmade touch, affordable pricing, and unmatched quality. But above all, it’s the exceptional service offered by her team. The dedicated and passionate women who work at Oh Kay’s play a central role in creating delightful shopping experiences for customers, solidified by a unique gift wrap that becomes an instant identifier of the brand.
For Kay, the decision to set up her boutique in the Rio Grande Valley was a no-brainer. It’s her home, her community, a place that she loves dearly and has always supported her dreams. Her boutique isn’t just a retail store; it’s her journey, passions, and the people of South Texas. Through challenges and opportunities, Kay Jancik’s story is evidence to perseverance, community ties, and the sheer joy of following one’s heart.
How do you stay ahead of the latest trends, especially in home furnishings, decor, and unique gifts? For Kay Jancik, owner of Oh Kay’s, this is a question she encounters often. “I really do. I prepare myself by doing my homework. I’m always looking for something fresh and new,” she shares. Whether she’s shopping at markets, estate sales, garage sales, or flea markets, Kay is on a constant quest for that unique find. “I shop everywhere. I’m always searching for something that I feel fits my criteria.” This passion for hunting the next best thing is what drives her.
Yet, even with such an impeccable eye for design and detail, she humbly admits, “Sometimes it’s not such a good idea because most of the time I’m ahead of the curve. And so, it takes people more time to catch up.” But Kay is more than just a trendsetter; she’s a relationship builder, especially with the designers and brands featured in her boutique. She emphasizes the value of these relationships, mentioning how even though representatives change, the companies she deals with are mostly exclusive.
Building and maintaining customer relationships are equally crucial for Kay. A recent memorable experience she recalls is of a very pleased customer who promised to return. For her, it’s all about ensuring each customer leaves happy. As for her inventory, Kay prides herself on always keeping it fresh and exciting. “Shopping is my job, and I love shopping,” she says. Traveling to markets in Dallas, Atlanta, and New York, or even international trips like her recent one to Italy, always yields unique finds that make Oh Kay’s stand out.
Engaging with customers goes beyond selling; it’s about making a connection. Kay and her team take the time to get to know their customers on a personal level. They know their families, histories, and even their children. The bond between the store and its customers is so deep that Kay praises her team, mentioning how they’ve been with her for years and share the same passion for the business.
The rise of e-commerce, especially during the pandemic, posed challenges for many businesses. But for Oh Kay’s, it presented an opportunity to adapt and grow. With a robust social media strategy and a focus on customer service, Kay says, “It was my best year ever.” Even when customers couldn’t enter the store, the team at Oh Kay’s found innovative ways to serve them.
As for the future, Kay is always excited about what’s next. The fall season, or what she refers to as the fourth quarter, is something they always look forward to. One of the collaborations she’s excited about is with Mary Rose Young, a premier ceramic artist from England. Kay describes her as “the sweetest, kindest person in the world, and super talented.”
In a world where trends come and go, Kay remains persistent in her commitment to offer the best to her customers, both in products and in experiences. With passion, innovation, and an eye for the extraordinary, Oh Kay’s continues to be the best for those in search of the unique and exquisite.
Advice for aspiring businesswomen can often sound clichéd. However, Kay’s insights, borne from years of hands-on experience, offer genuine, valuable guidance for those looking to make their mark. “I think one of the best things to do is work in an environment of their choice, or what better suits them,” she suggests. The practical experience gained from this firsthand engagement is incomparable, even to academic knowledge. While having a degree is commendable, Kay firmly believes that immersion in a real-world business environment provides insights a textbook cannot offer.
For Kay, the drive to establish a business is not just about the investment of money, but also a profound investment of time and dedication. Running a boutique, or any business for that matter, entails more intricacies than the public usually perceives. This idea emphasizes the value of experiencing business operations from the ground up.
But running a business also presents challenges in balancing personal life. When asked about how she manages her boutique alongside personal commitments, Kay humorously admits, “Not very well.” For her, the store is not just a business but a passion. The joy she derives from her boutique, the family bond she shares with her team, and the interactions she has with her customers are unparalleled. She cherishes time with her family and loves to travel; family comes first.
When discussing the future of Oh Kay’s, Kay excitedly speaks about the recent expansion of her store. While it was a significant move, it was essential for accommodating the vast array of unique products she offers. Her commitment to the boutique and its future is evident when she jokes, “I tease the girls and say, I’m going out feet first.” This strong attachment and dedication to the business reflect her love for what she does daily.
Apart from managing her boutique, one of Kay’s passions is showcasing young, aspiring artists. Offering a platform for these artists to showcase their talent at no charge is her way of giving back to the community. By doing so, she not only supports them in their journey but also introduces fresh, innovative products to her clientele.
Kay Jancik’s journey with Oh Kay’s is not just about running a successful boutique. It’s the proof of her passion for the business, her love for her customers and team, and her commitment to the community. Through the ups and downs of her business journey, her resilience, dedication, and genuine love for what she does shine through, making her an inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs.