John Dabbs, Ltd. — a favorite for brides seeking timeless and special registries in Charlotte and beyond — celebrates five decades in Myers Park.
by Sharon Smith | photographs by Amy Kolo
There’s an easy banter among the four Dabbs sisters when they all get together. It’s the kind of casual talk and warm laughter that often takes place at home around the kitchen island: How was your trip? Did you talk to Mom? But for the Dabbs women, home base is equally the storefront on Providence Road that bears their father’s name.
This year, the bridal and gift shop celebrates its golden anniversary on September 27. “It’s a milestone we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” says Ginny Touma. Her sister, Boo Viser, says there was never a doubt. Their mother, Carol Dabbs, confirms it with a knowing, hearty laugh. “Oh, hell no. We work our tails off. It’s our pride and joy. We wouldn’t give it up.”
They are all quick to say how proud John Dabbs would be about the success they’ve achieved since his passing in 1995. “He had great taste and was known as a gentleman,” Boo says. His silk flower arrangements were legendary around town, his daughters say, and passers-by were always drawn to his window displays. It was John who chose the chocolate brown exterior paint color (which matches the gift boxes) and logo, which are still used today.
While much has changed in Charlotte and in the gift-shop business since 1972, the Dabbs family says customer service is still their strength, along with their shared knowledge of a finely curated inventory from top lines like Vietri, Herend, Nambe and Simon Pearce. Some families have been coming to John Dabbs Ltd. for three generations.
They’ve also come to enjoy a new customer base beyond Charlotte. One morning during the pandemic, Boo woke up to find 30 new followers on their Instagram account and new orders from California. They all wondered what happened, until they realized a New York City influencer shared their placemats on Instagram. “We went viral!” Ginny jokes, but they also learned the importance of tapping into a stronger digital presence.
The conventional route is still a key to their success. Throughout the pandemic, brides were especially drawn to fine china as they wanted to have something special to set out during those days of being stuck at home, Ginny says. As people were out walking more, those window displays attracted new customers who would call and ask about a particular pattern or gift.
“Someone will ask, ‘Will you deliver this on my daughter’s birthday?’ and we’ll say, ‘Yes.’” Ginny says. Boo adds, “And it will probably be one of us delivering it!”
It’s an all-hands-on-deck operation for the family and a handful of employees. They all pitch in with deliveries and minding the store, but everyone also has her own department. Ginny does monogram orders and bookkeeping. Boo handles the website. Nan Loftin manages pricing, shipping and receiving. Their sister, Terry Lewis, who lives in Raleigh, sells her handmade dogwood pottery there. Growing up, they worked at the shop (and played upstairs as youngsters) with their parents incorporating the store naturally into family life.
Carol, who now splits her time between Charlotte and Blowing Rock, is still very much involved in the store that she and John founded. A third generation of cousins also helps out with everything from Instagram to gift wrapping. “Everyone in the family knows the art of gift wrapping,” Ginny says.
They also know the art of getting along — as a family and as business partners. Even moreso, they enjoy each other. “We have always gotten along,” Carol says. “I can’t document a time we’ve fallen out over anything.”
“It sounds like it’s not true, but it is,” Ginny says with a chuckle. They work together but also take vacations and have Sunday dinners together. “We’re best friends,” Boo says.
They want their customers to have that same sense of ease and comfort, whether it’s someone they’ve known for 30 years, or someone they’ve just met for the first time. For the women of John Dabbs, Ltd., owning a gift shop is about delivering the whole package. SP
The store will have an anniversary celebration with customers on Sept. 28 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. with champagne, sweet treats and a raffle. For store information, visit johndabbsltd.com.
Featured photo: Ginny Touma, Nan Loftin, Carol Dabbs, Terry Lewis and Boo Viser