Jeanette Culling opened the Pineapple Porch Boutique in East Cobb as the anti e-commerce store.
If you needed a gift, you could go to the store, hold it and know what you were getting. The same goes for that last item you are looking for to finish off a room — the classic-styled item that would be perfect for years. The Pineapple Porch aims to have the right accessories to freshen up any room.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the store in spring 2020, less than a year after it opened in May 2019, Culling was somewhat at a loss. Until she began posting items from the store on her social media account and she figured out what she had really built.
Her store at 1255 Johnson Ferry Road had become important to her customers. The shop, placed in a strip mall in what used to be a tanning salon that had 18 different 8-by-10 rooms, had transformed into the look and feel of a home thanks to the vision of Marietta designer Cassandra Buckalew. It had become like home for so many of Culling’s customers.
Clients would reach out on social media and then call Culling using FaceTime to pick out items that they couldn’t go to the store and pick out themselves. And each day, Culling would then make deliveries to customers or the recipients of their gifts. It wasn’t e-commerce because it still had the personal touch that is so important to Pineapple Porch.
But it also made all the difference.
“The thing that was so surprising to me and comforting was the number of people who said ‘We get it. We’re so happy to have you here as a store. We know that, if we don’t buy from you now, you won’t be here when all of this is over,’” Culling said. “For some people, that was their own motivation for shopping… That’s why we love the South. And why we have said, ‘Southern hospitality, gracious living.’”
“They kept our doors open.”
Culling spent the first 15 years of her career as a nurse. When she reentered the workforce as her two children grew, she knew she was looking for something different.
She wanted to make a different type of impact on people’s daily lives. So she started with an intimate shopping experience for home décor, lighting and accessory furniture.
Then that focus shifted.
Now the boutique is more gift items, women’s accessories and unique home items to help finish off a room.
Customers often bring in photos of a room and its decorations, looking to find the right items to make the space their own. And, oftentimes, they find the items they can fall in love with at the Pineapple Porch.
“Helping people realize that they can do it themselves,” Culling said, is key. “Everything doesn’t have to be a big project. Just little by little, bite off pieces they can handle. We really wanted to create that intimate environment, and I think it’s made a difference for the customer who’s looking for that. They have been so happy to find a store like this.”
Culling lives in the Kennesaw area herself but felt like that her niche wouldn’t be as easy to fill there. So she went to East Cobb and found out that she was able to fill a space in the market with a customer base that’s both loyal and caring.
Oftentimes, she finds the same loyal customers will visit multiple times a week, and they aren’t even shopping for themselves.
“We opened with the idea of embracing Southern hospitality and embracing your setting,” Culling said. “Everyone wants to take a gift wherever they go.”
You won’t likely find trendy items at the Pineapple Porch, Culling said. The concept is to make people feel at home and then allow customers to find the items to complete their own living space.
The pineapple, Culling said, is a symbol of hospitality while the porch is where you bring people into your lives. That’s why she felt that Pineapple Porch Boutique was the perfect name for her concept.
“We are a classic store, so we carry a lot of classic things,” Culling said. “We carry blue and white, we carry bamboo. We carry linen, we carry a lot of things that the Southern lifestyle really hangs onto. I feel like people know what we have and know who we are. They’re not going to come here looking for a modern piece of artwork.”
They have everything from candles to table-top place settings to salt and pepper shakers to the best ways to present appetizers or charcuterie.
“Charcuterie is not going anywhere,” she said.
A key element of the Pineapple Porch’s success is making customers feel at home and making sure that they get the items that they actually want and that fit their home.
That’s why they often allow customers to take items home to try them out before making the final decision to make a purchase. To live with the item and see how it fits their needs.
“Some people don’t like to bring things back once they’ve bought them,” Culling said. “I think it relieves a lot of the pressure for them when they say, ‘I’m going to try these,’ knowing that about half of it is going to work… ‘I can take home these three platters but I only need one.’ It’s really about knowing that it’s going to work in their space so that they feel good about it.”
This is why customers keep coming back. And why, when things get tough like they did when the store closed for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic, loyal customers reach out and make sure to keep buying.
It’s a value proposition and it’s clear that East Cobb values the Pineapple Porch Boutique.