We recently had the privilege of having a conversation with Ross Fontenot, owner of Lafayette boutique Genterie Supply Co, about running a boutique fashion and lifestyle shop, how it grows him personally, and a little bit about New Orleans, Louisiana, and a tub of fried chicken.
What's your name and where are you from?
Ross Fontenot, Lafayette, Louisiana.
How did you get into fashion or clothing retail and why is it important?
I didn't really have any prior experience in either. But a good friend and I had seen a few other stores in other cities that we wanted to see in Lafayette. And I guess I've always had an appreciation for interesting design and style. Fashion and style are great because you can express yourself creatively by what you wear and also feel good about yourself. I don't consider myself super fashionable but I love cool pieces and how they make me feel while wearing them.
What's the story behind your shop, what's it all about?
We originally opened as a menswear/accessory store that was built around a lifestyle. A lifestyle that knows clever products, quality grooming, barware, and contemporary yet classic style. We liked the idea of selling products with great stories behind them. The store is based a lot on our own tastes but we also curate the store based somewhat on our Southern Louisiana clientele. As far as apparel goes, I would say we fall somewhere between rugged, and classic Americana for men, and the women's clothes compliment that.
How long has the store been open?
We opened in June of 2011 and in 2014, we moved a few blocks away into a larger space to incorporate women's apparel.
How did you get started?
We sort of just started contacting brands that we liked with of photos of the space we were planning to open in and a concept gallery of photos that helped to show the aesthetic we were going for. Some brands returned our emails and some did not.
What was the moment when you realized you were ready to open a store?
I'm still not sure that I've had that moment yet. We have grown and flourished but I wonder all the time if I'm doing this right.
What have you learned lately through running the business?
I'm constantly realizing that as much as I want to, I can't please everyone as a boutique. That's something that I learned a while back but I have to remind myself of pretty regularly. Also, I recently learned how to better use photo shop because some of my online flyers used to really suck.
Is there anything that you have learned in the store that has made you a better person as a whole?
I have two employees so I've worked in the shop a lot from the beginning. And I would say that my customer service skills have improved significantly. And part of that is reading people well, communicating properly, and having better patience than most. I believe this business has made me more personable in general.
What else are you working on right now?
I'm doing my best to get my online store better stocked with a lot more of what's in the store. It takes time but it's in the works. And I'm always trying to use my own branding for more collaborations.
How often to you get to New Orleans?
I try to go once a month. Sometimes I make it twice in a month and sometimes two months pass before I go back. But I can't stay gone for very long.
What most inspires you about New Orleans?
Like in cajun country, I love when New Orleans music and lifestyle blend so harmoniously. A really great second line or a hyped up bounce show. Years ago, I brought a couple Lafayette friends to a Morning 40 Federation show at the Maple Leaf. As the band started, a couple large tubs of fried chicken from Jacques-Imo's were being passed around in the crowd for everyone to enjoy. That moment was amazing and also inspiring for me. New Orleans music culture is passionate and about truly living.
Are there any wise words you’d like to share?
Make a difference, take naps, and don't take yourself too seriously.