Oothoon’s: Retail Magic

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story by Robin Beaudoin Ownby | photos by Beverly Love

“I never would have thought back then, this is what I’d end up doing. It’s hard to leave the store now. My husband has to drag me out,” Michelle McMillen swoons. “In a previous life, I was in graduate school to be an English instructor. Oothoon was the main character in a William Blake poem, Visions of the Daughters of Albion. I just kind of made it my pseudonym. When it was a time to open the store, it just came across as the perfect name.”

Oothoon’s is a metaphysical gift shop, with a little bit of something for everyone. It was opened in September of 2019, bringing further community and heart to the Crosstown neighborhood of Memphis.

“I had been in retail for years. I start off working at Camelot music, Pizza Hut, …Macy’s (when it was Goldsmith’s), and store manager for Banana Republic in Saddle Creek…,” recalls McMillen. And truth be told, there are too many others to list. She then earned her master’s degree in English and ended up going to teach at a community college in West Memphis, ASU Mid-South. She worked her way up, but says she had a retail calling.

“I always wanted a restaurant or store, and the store won. At 50, I quit my job and opened a store,” McMillen said.

McMillen’s husband, Todd, wasn’t loving his job either, so they both quit their jobs and started this store. “The Memphis community support has been amazing,” she said. “It’s almost a calling.”

Located near Crosstown Concourse, next to the Hi-Tone, the building gets a diverse and interesting clientele; almost all return for shopping and company.

“We’re very loving and accepting of everyone. We have people coming in with all belief systems. It’s interesting to hear their stories, and we try to give them the things they need on their spiritual path. We carry a lot of Memphis made art. We have hand-carved and decorated pieces, and heart art. We’re selling cloth masks for COVID-19, hand sanitizers, etc. We call it a ‘metaphysical gift store — a magical place to shop.’ We have something for everybody.”

Owner Michelle McMillen quit her teaching job to open Oothoon’s.

Oothoon’s serves local customers from Cordova, Midtown, Downtown, Bartlett, Germantown, and others from across the Mid-South. “COVID-19 had us closed in-person for awhile, so we we’re continuing doing online and delivery.”

Partnerships with other Midtown businesses have led the McMillens to giving and volunteering within the LGBTQ+ community. “We donated gift cards and different products to Friends for Life…I think they do such great work. We’ve done some Tarot readings for Halloween at Midtown Crossing Grill, as well,” says McMillen. Engaging through their vendors, the store spent a lot of money at the annual Dru’s bar auction, and for the food bank, organized by bartender Jennay Crawford. “We want to engage in fundraising, volunteering, and awareness even more in the future.”

More than a store, Oothoon’s is evolving into a hub for the neighborhood. “We have regulars that come in and talk to us, almost like a teatime. People come in and talk to us about what they need help with, and to ask us questions about advice, or to be a non- judgmental sounding board for the community. The things some of our clients have been through, we feel like a safe haven for them, where they can be themselves.” Oothoon’s carries Pride products, caters to the LGBTQ+ community and considers themselves partners, advocates, and friends. “We love the diverse neighborhood and being part of a new things happening in the Crosstown area. We want our customers to feel safe, whether that’s here at the store, or at home.”

OOTHOON’S
410 North Cleveland Street (across from Black Lodge video) www.oothoons.com