By Keysha Drexel
A business that started as a small home gift store almost 30 years ago will expand into a three-location retail clothing company next month.
The Pink Tulip, which first opened in Southside in 1986 and currently has locations in Homewood and Cahaba Village, will open a third store in Hoover’s Patton Creek shopping center in March.
And this will not be the first time owners Letty and Jeff Algren have been at the helm of three locations of The Pink Tulip.
The couple expanded the business from one to three stores between 1986 and the early 2000s, at which time they sold the company and worked in church ministry for five years. They bought the business back in 2010.
“When we first started out in Five Points, I never imagined that we’d have three stores, sell everything and work in ministry and then come back to have three stores again,” Letty Algrin said.
When she and her husband first opened The Pink Tulip in 1986, they envisioned using their prior experience in retail to run a home and gift store.
“My husband had been with department stores up North for several years by that point, and we had both worked at Parisian at different times. I was a buyer for Parisian for five years, and we just decided it was time to open our own store,” Algrin said.
Making the move to become small business owners was something the Algrins said they didn’t take lightly.
“Believe me, it was scary,” Algrin said. “We literally had to borrow $5,000 to get started. It was hard, but it was something that we believed in and really wanted to do.”
The couple opened their first store with just $15,000 in inventory.
“But that shoestring beginning didn’t matter,” Algrin said. “I knew how to be creative on a budget. That’s something I learned from my mother.”
Algrin’s mother, Helen Stewart, was closely involved with helping her daughter grow The Pink Tulip from the very beginning.
“My logo today is still the little pink tulip with my mother’s handwriting,” Algrin said. “She passed away in November. She was 94 years old and one of the most creative, artistic people I’ve ever known.”
The business got its name from Algrin’s favorite flower.
“I love flowers and especially tulips,” she said. “The name fit because at first, we didn’t carry clothing and it sounded like a great name for a home store.”
But as their business grew, the Algrins began to respond to the needs of their customers and added some clothing to The Pink Tulip’s offerings.
“Little by little, we were getting requests from our customers to start carrying clothing, so we added a few pieces here and there,” Algrin said. “That evolved into The Pink Tulip becoming a clothing store with accents of gifts.”
Algrin said she has always tried to make sure The Pink Tulip offers trendy clothing that is still conservative and appeals to women of all ages.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you still want to look cute,” Algrin said. “I have customers who shop with their daughters and their granddaughters, and they can all find something that works for them.”
Algrin said her late mother was the perfect example of the breadth of The Pink Tulip’s customer base.
“Even when she was in her 90s, my mother didn’t dress like an old woman, and she didn’t want to dress like an old woman,” Algrin said. “We have things that will flatter you, no matter how old you are, and still make you look like a lady.”
The Pink Tulip also offers clothing and accessories for even the most on-trend and discerning teen shoppers.
“When I came back to the business after five years in the ministry, my daughter was a teenager, and I started realizing how difficult it was to find clothes for her that were young and contemporary with a fun attitude that are at the same time conservative enough to wear anywhere,” she said.
The Pink Tulip also offers plenty of fun, trendy options for plus-size customers, Algrin said.
Algrin said the best part of her job is working as a team with the store managers and others on staff at The Pink Tulip.
“We’re a team and my husband and I may own the company on paper, but we encourage our employees to talk to us and really be equal partners,” Algrin said.
Algrin said she and her husband decided to open the Patton Creek store because they were responding to the needs of their customers.
“We used to have a store on (Alabama) 150 where Verizon is, and our customers in Hoover who shop in that area have been asking us to come back to that area,” she said.
The new Hoover store will be next door to Cajun Steamer and down from Edgar’s Bakery in the Patton Creek Shopping Center.
Algrin said she is using salvaged lumber and other items from the old Arlington High School in Bessemer that is being demolished to outfit the 4,000-square-foot Patton Creek store.
“We want the store to reflect our unique style and offer a fun experience that isn’t in a cookie-cutter boutique approach,” she said.
The Hoover store will have the same hours as the Cahaba Village store, opening from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re shooting for a Feb. 24 opening, so people can get a sneak peek, and then we’ll definitely have the grand opening by March 1,” Algrin said.
For more information, visit www.thepinktu.com.