Nell Wepner-Hass

Age: 29
Resides: Newton
Family: Engaged to marry John Hass August 2018
Occupation: Boutique Owner, Hair and Makeup Artist

Did you grow up in Newton?
Yes. I am one of 12 kids, so I have a lot of family. My mom grew up here in Newton, and my dad is originally from Wisconsin. He came here and met my mom. My family has a long history in Newton. Eight of us still live here. The five youngest are still in school. My older brother John and his wife Janet own the Wepner Wellness Center, and my mom owns The Light Place. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs.

What was growing up in Newton like?
I remember walking around downtown when I was little, going into the shops and eating lunch. My dad's office is really close by, so we would hang out there. Sometimes my mom is surprised about the things I remember. She’d say, “I didn't know you were alive when that store was there.” But I remember. I like the smallness of it. I like that everywhere you go, you see someone you know.

Where did you go to school?
I was homeschooled for most of my education prior to college. I went to CVCC [Catawba Valley Community College] for my Associate's Degree, and then I went to the Aveda Institute in Charlotte.

So your plan was to work in the beauty industry in some way?
Yes. When I went to beauty school, I lived in Charlotte. I lived there for about a year and I hated it. I did not like living in Charlotte at all. I found myself coming home on the weekends because I liked being here in Catawba County. I liked this environment and this atmosphere. So once that year was up, I moved back here.

What led you to open Dapper Daisy?
What led me to open the store was this location and the location next door. It was my great-grandfather's hardware store, Abernethy Hardware. I’m not exactly sure of the right timeframe, but it was operated from the late 1930s to the early 1970s. The building next door was mostly hardware, and this location was mostly gift items.

About six or seven years ago, these two buildings were up for sale. My mom was really, really interested in buying them back into the family because she had such fond memories of coming here when her grandfather had the hardware store.

The store in this building went out of business, and my mom had an empty building. She kept brainstorming what to put in here, and one day I said, “Let me open up a clothing boutique.” So that's kind of how it happened. Newton doesn't have a clothing boutique like this, so I figured it was a great opportunity to bring something like this to Newton.

Had you ever done anything like this before?
No. I helped my mom open up her lighting business, and I worked for her for a while. I saw what it took to do that, and I thought I was capable of it. And this is what I love to do. My passion is making people feel beautiful, so having this boutique helps bring my passion to life.

How long did it take for you to get it all pulled together? How’s it been going?
It was around September of 2014 when I came up with the idea and started brainstorming. I opened in June of 2015. Each year it's better and better. More people learn that I'm here. I think word of mouth is the best advertising, and it just takes a while for it to spread. I do other forms of advertising, but I still feel word of mouth is most authentic.

What have you enjoyed most about running a business?
I love bringing fashion and beauty to Newton. I love seeing people in clothing from my store. Every day there’s something new. I can change the displays, change the clothes. It’s continuously changing, so it is always exciting to come to work.

I also have an employee, which gives me flexibility to do other things, such as volunteer in the community and travel.

The downfall is that sometimes I wake up and I think, “I need to look at my email, I need to do all these things.” I never rest from my store. Even on my days off, I'm still looking to see if I had any sales, posting on social media, and checking emails. It's a 24-hour job, but I love it. I love being a small business owner.

How do you decide what merchandise to carry?
When I look at a clothing item I think, “Would I wear that?” The lady who works with me is older, in her late 50s. If she thinks it's cute and she would wear it, we get it. I like to have a large age range with what we offer. Here in Newton, we don't really have a standard clientele. So if she and I like it and we both think we'd wear it, then we think it'll sell. And most of the time, it's true.

As a business owner, what’s it like being in Downtown Newton?
This is really the only place I would open up a store, because Newton is so special to me. Having so much history here and having a store in the same building where my great-grandfather had his store is a special thing. Maybe someday I might expand and have a store somewhere else, but it's always a good foundation to start somewhere that has so much meaning to you.

Is the community appreciative that you have a business here in downtown?
Yes, people are always saying, “I'm so glad you brought something like this to Newton.” Now Downtown has expanded and other people have brought businesses here, too. Sometimes when someone sees you do something, it gives them motivation to say, “Hey, if she can do it so can I.” I think opening this store brought a lot to Newton.

You have this family legacy of owning a business. Does that ever feel like a burden or create pressure for you?
No, that actually has never crossed my mind. I think it just motivates me. It doesn't ever scare me. It mostly motivates me to continuously keep going. Never fear.             

Is there anything particular about the store that really stands out and feels special to you because of the history of the building?
If you noticed the weathered boards as you walked in, those are from my great-grandfather's boathouse from Lake Hickory. The boathouse was built in 1929. At about the same time I opened my store, they had to tear down the boathouse. Instead of throwing away the wood, we decided to repurpose it and put it on the walls here for displays. The metal awning on the outside of the store is from the roof of that boathouse. The desk where people check out also has metal from the roof. I brought little pieces of him back here and put my own twist on it.

How do you think your great-grandfather would feel about what you’re doing?
I think he would be proud. He would be excited and he would be proud that my generation is still continuing his legacy by being entrepreneurs.

If someone asked you why you love living in Catawba County, what you love about Newton, what would you tell them?
You have all the amenities of a big city, but you don't have to be in a big city. I like being in a small town. Here in Newton and Hickory, you don't feel like you're in a big city, but you can find anything that you need. Catawba County has so much to offer! We have shops, restaurants, parks, museums, a symphony, and a lake. I love the quaintness of this area. Catawba County to me is comfortable, safe, and a place I am lucky to call home.

What are your thoughts when you look to the future? What do you see happening in Newton and Catawba County beyond today?
I see growth. I know a big thing is to get our young people back here, and I think it will happen. I think our young people will move to Charlotte and then move back. I know they will, just like I did. I just did it sooner.

I do think we will continue to grow. Newton is going to start the streetscape, which Conover has just done and now Newton is getting started. That will make downtown look even better, and it'll drive people to come here because they’ll want to see what's happening. And then more people will want to open businesses here. I just see a lot of growth, and I see potential in the future.

Interviewed April 6, 2018