10 questions with home décor and accessories boutique Messengers Gifts

Messengers Gifts owner Rayanna Messenger overcame many challenges to make her shop a success story. Photos courtesy Messengers Gifts.

Opening her own boutique hasn’t been an easy feat for Rayanna Messenger, owner of Messengers Gifts on George O’Neal Road. When she first opened her shop specializing in home décor, accessories and children’s items back in 2019, she couldn’t have anticipated that in one year, a pandemic, breast cancer and divorce would be just a few of the issues she would have to tackle. Despite it all, Messenger’s determination and passion for her business and all it brings to her customers has remained strong.

As a breast cancer survivor, Messenger tries to use her platform to raise awareness whenever possible. This Saturday, October 15, Messengers Gifts will be hosting its third annual Breast Cancer Bash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with snacks, door prizes and a Facebook Live auction to raise funds for Foundation for Woman’s. A portion of proceeds will be used to assist Woman’s Hospital in providing mammograms and CT scans to women in rural areas. 

Keep reading to learn more about Messenger and her budding business.


1. What is a typical day like for you at Messengers Gifts?

There’s always something to be done. We don’t stop. If I had to describe it, I’d call it organized chaos. In retail, no day is ever the same, but for the most part it’s very busy.

2. What is your professional background? How did you get into the retail field?

I’ve been in sales for pretty much my whole life, so I knew the selling part of the retail side wouldn’t be hard for me. But as far as the retail side goes (the buying, the learning numbers), that was a little bit more difficult for me in the sense that I had to lean on some local mentors. 

I have friends in Lafayette and Zachary who own gift stores. I also have a friend in Port Allen who owns an apparel store. I leaned on them for information as far as getting to know the business side of things.  And of course, I did a lot of research. But as far as selling and engaging with customers, that has always been natural for me, especially coming out of the medical sales field. 

 

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3. What was your reason for opening the store? When did it open and how has it grown and changed since then?

We opened in March 2019, and it’s changed so much since then. I saw pictures the other day of the shop’s earliest months where it looks like I barely had anything in here. Now we run out of space to put things!

When I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, I was kind of forced into hiring someone to help my mom, who was not an employee at the time, but who was just working to help me get the business up and running. So I hired my first employee, and now, a year later, we’re at nine employees. 

It has grown substantially. It’s been such a huge blessing through every bump in the road, be it COVID, cancer or divorce. It’s been crazy, but you just run with it. 

4. What are the first things customers see when they visit your store?

They’re always greeted with a “Welcome! Can I help you today?” We’re a boutique, so we want that hospitable feel as soon as somebody walks in—almost like being catered to every second of your shopping experience. It’s been something that my customers have become accustomed to.

You’ll also see a huge candle display. I feel like I could be a candle store because we sell so many candles, but I like to have a bit of variety here at Messengers Gifts.

 

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5. What sets your business apart from other gift shops and boutiques?

The warm feeling you get from all of my employees, including myself. That energy that you get when you walk through the door inspires a different shopping mode in some people. We want that personalized, unique shopping experience for all of our customers. 

6. What is one thing you think customers should know about your business that they may not be aware of?

We are getting a laser engraver in the next few weeks, making us the only store in Baton Rouge to have one. It’s a customer-interactive laser machine that will be able to personalize products right in front of you, in store, while you wait. I have a whole custom checkout counter being built around it.

7. How do you keep your store’s designs fresh and up to date?

Constantly buying. I’m always looking for the newest, coolest, trendiest items. 

It takes a village to run a business like Messengers Gifts. I listen to my customers and my employees, and a lot of the items that I have in my store were items customers sought out or recommended. I also have a lot of mentors that are in the same industry, and we talk almost daily to exchange ideas.

 

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8. Can you share a hint about what designs shoppers will see in your store next season?

The laser machine is the biggest thing that’s going to be fresh and new to the store at the end of October. You’re going to see a lot of gifts that you’ll be able to personalize. The personalization is really where I’m going to be focusing in the fourth quarter for Christmas.

9. What are a few of your favorite items in the store right now?

E. Newton is a jewelry designer I love. I grew that brand from one little display to an entire three cabinets. It’s 14-karat gold-filled jewelry in classic, timeless styles—definitely things you could pass down to your family. Then I think my second favorite item would be Spongellé, an infused sponge to replace the loofas you use in the shower or bathtub. Last, I’d choose Sweet Grace, our color-changing flower diffuser from Bridgewater.

 

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10. What are some must-have items for the fall at Messengers Gifts?

Preserves are number one. We carry a lot of different pepper jellies that do really well with in the fall. We also carry a line called Bonfolk for men. The company makes unisex socks, but I have a lot more men who purchase them than women, maybe because we have all of the SEC schools’ mascots on the socks. And of course, you can never go wrong with Christmas tree ornaments. It’s crazy how many ornaments we filter through the store this time of year. 

 

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To check out Messengers’ Gifts products and services, check out the store’s website and follow the shop on Instagram @messengersgifts.