July 18, 2016 3 min read
We get a lot of people asking us “What’s with the name? Chunky Armadillo?”
Yeah, it’s an eyebrow-raiser, we know. That’s sort of the idea.
Chunky Armadillo was concepted in Dallas, TX while our founder and stylist Melanie Hutchins was holding a day job in IT sales and flipping renovated houses on the weekends. She’s a southern girl in spirit and soul, so her style and fashion sense draws a lot from the funky, off-beat tones of the south and its eclectic mix of urban country and new boho. “I wanted to stand out and be different,” Melanie says. “That’s what this is for me; a creative outlet and a message to the world that you can be funky and weird and cool, and that’s okay! Just be you!”
Like many artists who have to hold down a day job, while Melanie was sitting in her stale, air-conditioned office making sales calls for software companies, she was quietly dreaming up outlandish outfits and upcycled furniture that spoke to her idea of free-spirited living and creative flair. She and her husband, Paul, found their first outlet for this by flipping homes.
“We’d buy old dilapidated places for cheap and build them up to resell,” she explains. “I’d come home from the office and tell him ‘knock out this wall’ and we’d do it that evening. I’d go back to work the next day where I was just miserable and my creative side was fighting to get out, ya know?”
The couple enjoyed the house flipping and, while doing so, Melanie discovered a hidden decorating talent that stemmed from hunting down treasures, taking junk and making it into something functional and cool. The first iteration of Chunky Armadillo was a boutique booth in the Frisco Mercantile, a craft and antique mall in Frisco, Texas. “Raw talent in there,” Melanie adds. “People doing all kinds of beautiful crafts and stuff. But we saw a missing component. There just wasn’t enough industrial, urban design going on. It was all doilies and cottage charm. So we made pallet swings and mirrors made from shims we got at Home Depot. We made old truck springs into lamps. Just a really vintage, rustic, industrial throwback.”
The concepts and creations Melanie and her husband were turning out were such a success at the Mercantile, she decided it was time to take things to the next level. This was her calling, after all. She was sure of it.
Running that little booth inside a massive mall was a headache. Paul and Melanie had to bring their 5 year old daughter to the booth while they were trying to hang lights and set up. “We needed a support system to really do what we wanted,” Melanie tells. “So we moved to Columbus where our families are.”
Melanie describes her first impression of the Columbus fashion scene with a wry smile. “When I came here I just saw everyone wearing hoodies and Ugg boots and was like WTF?! Where is the unique style and individual creativity? I wanted to bring that wild, funky scene I had in the south to Columbus where the city is fresh and new and blowing up.”
“I shopped around for a space to open the shop forever,” she explains. “I had to write a business plan before I could do this. So I did an assessment of the whole short north area. Looked at who else is in the area. There were 4 or 5 shops that were doing well and could be considered competitors but I felt like what I was offering was a compliment to them instead of a direct competition.”
The other stores that so inspired her were Happy Go Lucky, Old World New Home, Elm and Iron, and Glean. She interviewed all of the owners of these places to get an idea of where her shop would stand in the community.
When asked how she’s doing, Melanie gives a humble shrug and smiles.
“It’s selling. It’s like people just want to be themselves. They’re tired of being told what to do and tired of being like everyone else. I like that, and I want to encourage it here in Columbus.”
It’s time to be you. No apologies. No regrets.
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